“Many people in my village speak only their ethnic language and can’t understand Lao. This could become really challenging when they need to communicate with people outside our community. When sick, they will need to find someone speaking Lao to go to the hospital and help with translation. They will have to pay for transportation and food for the translator. This is one of the many examples why we should encourage and support our children to study Lao language and learn to become independent”.
These are the words of Mrs. Kaenkham Yang, a 29-year-old woman from the Kiewpha village, Houn district, Oudomxay province who committed herself to support the education of all children in her community. To achieve her mission, she volunteers to be a facilitator for the BEQUAL NGO Consortium (BNC) activities, a program led by the Government of Laos, with support from the Government of Australia and the European Union. In this role, she runs the after-school reading activities with primary school children, coordinates parents’ awareness workshops and helps VEDC identify disadvantaged children from her community eligible for the small grants support provided by the BNC.
Mrs. Kaenkham is also a proud member of the VEDC and represents the Lao Women’s Union. She often lectures women in the village on the importance of education and of Lao language acquisition. She motivates parents to send their children to school, by explaining to them that only learning and studying could help their children develop important life skills for the future. She is also a children’s hygiene awareness advocate. She displays hygiene books in her house and school and hangs posters on the seven stages of handwashing in school reading corner.
With help from her husband and mother-in-law, she acquired a Diploma of Food and Hotel Service and Certificate of English, from a private school who provides education support to communities. She is the only female VEDC member to achieve such a high-level education, and this motivates her to share and utilise her skills to help the children and women in her village. She is not only a mother who looks after her children, but she also deeply cares for the children in her community. She often encourages parents in her community to spend time with their children in the evenings to read with them and share stories.
“My husband often encourages me to use my knowledge to support children and parents in our village who don’t know Lao language to understand how much education is important to our real life. He sometimes helps me solve the problem when I needed.”
As a VEDC member, Kaenkham has supported a Lao language and readiness activity for grade 1 students, hygiene promotion activities in school and in the village and a workshop on identifying disadvantaged children for providing small grants for education access and reading promotion hosted by the District Education and sports Bureau (DESB) and Plan Laos.
Mr. Siemualee, Head of Kiewpha village says, “Kaenkham is so helpful for the community with hygiene awareness, school readiness and reading promotion. She is the one who can read and write Lao and she often is in charge of supporting the educational activities. Even if she has her own duties at home with her family, she would never say no when I asked for her support”.
She supports teachers to collaborate with parents, encouraging them to send their children to school. She also translates from Hmong to Lao language and vice versa during workshops, trainings and meetings. She also translates between English and Lao for people who visit Kiewpha village or assist other villages when necessary.
Mr. Leepor, Principal of Kiewpha’s Primay School says, “She often encourages children in the village to come to school, participate in reading camp, borrow books to bring back home and to read after dinner. She also supports women in this village to join the caregiver’s workshop. Some parents don’t want to come because they don’t understand Lao but she will motivate them”.
Mrs. Kaenkham hopes that through the joint activities within the community, families will better recognise the importance and benefits of education and send their children to school at the right age. She hopes for a better future for all children.
“I’m really pleased and proud that I had the opportunity to join this project and to support my community. Through the BEQUAL activities, I’ve learned many things. I think I will be able to better support the children from my community in their Lao language acquisition and help them to better connect with native Lao speakers classmates. Moreover, I help the children with handwashing techniques, and in that way, help them stay healthy in the future.”