The Luang Prabang
for Disabled Children
At the end of a very bumpy track we reach the Luang Prabang Educational School for Disabled Children. It is rare to see such a clean place and it is especially quiet. We meet sister Vong Sivongsouk in this hushed atmosphere.
This school, which is situated in the outskirts of Luang Prabang hosts about fifty hearing impaired children aged between 8 and 20. Most of them come from far away villages of the North of Laos. They all are boarders and go back to their families 3 months during the summer holidays.
Unfortunately there are many other children like them in Laos. In fact, the living conditions in the villages and the big amounts of agent orange spread during the Vietnam war have largely contributed to create this sort of handicap of Lao children.
Every year, the school, which was founded in November 2008 has to face many applications because it is one of the rare schools of this type in Laos and the cases are unfortunately plenty. All the costs for the children (accommodation, lessons, school material, clothes) are entirely supported by the school because most parents hardly have the financial means to ensure their own living.
The necessary money to run the center comes from various sources, and mostly from donations given by associations, help organizations or private initiatives. The main problem is that these donations are not recurrent and it needs a drastic organization to distribute the money along the year. In order to meet this lack of financial means, one of the solution is “Do by yourself”. Thus, when you stroll along the classrooms and dormitory, you can see a vegetable garden, a small farm where pigs and hens kept as well as a pond for fish raising; there is also some cattle quietly grazing under the fruit trees et there is a small house for cultivating mushrooms.
1. The organization of the center
This center is directed by 5 nuns of La Charité de Sainte-Jeanne Antide de Touret who are helped by teachers and some foreign volunteers. The children follow the same program as the other children in Laos but in sign language. They also learn the basic educational principles and the elementary hygiene rules. After the lessons, they play basketball, pétanque and have a play room at their disposal with puzzles, books, legos. They also cultivate their own little garden they were given or tend the animals. In fact, the at last have the opportunity to live a child’s life, like all other children. Everything is well organized and you meet smiles everywhere.
2. Professional perspectives
The center for woman promotion
However, the center has to meet a new challenge. When the children have finished school, they often have no other choice than to go back to their village, the professional perspective for them being very few because of their handicap.
The insertion in working life remains a serious problem. But the team working in the center has an answer to each problem. Among these, there was the creation of an educational center for "Woman promotion”.
This center is attended by young girls coming from ethnic minorities and by boarders of the school. There the young girls learn to cook, to make pastries, to saw and hairstyle.
3. What about the boys
Like for the girls, the answer to exclusion is educational training. Various actions are organized in the center to train this young adults, but there is presently no real structure.
Nowadays the boys learn directly on the spot, helping the masons for the extension of the dormitories, learning to use the gardening tools with the gardeners and using saws or drills when repairing works are done.
Some others attend a technique training but it needs the help of a translator for the sign language during the lessons (which is very expensive). A technique school for the professions of wood, mechanics and metal is planned but this will take time.
L’ASAS has begun a collaboration with this center in order to promote the professional training in the center so that the children who have found a place in the center later find a place in the Lao society.
Some culture :
The Charity Sisters :
This religious order was founded in 1633 by saint Vincent de Paul; this sisters are dedicated to sick persons and to physical and spiritual care of poor people. The first sister was a cowhand Marguerite Naseau who, since she was young had dedicated to young girls’literacy.
During the 19th century and until the end of the 1960s, the sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul worked as care assistant in hospices and refuges. They nearly all worked there. Then, as from 1920, they were replaced by nurses, psychiatric made nurses and by lay car assistants.
This society of apostolic life is now present everywhere in the world and has about 20.000 members. Many charity sisters live according to this religious law under various forms, caring for women, children, young people migrants, sick people, disabled, elderly persons, homeless or dependent people… Next to health, the formation of young people is part of their mission.