What are your impressions working as a volunteer in flood-hit Sanamxay district?
The collapse of the Xe Pian- Xe Namnoy hydropower project saddle dam in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province on July 23 triggered devastating floods that caused severe damage and impacted thousands of people. Many sectors, organisations and foundations went to the area to carry out relief activities as well as assist and entertain the victims living in tents in temporary centres inside and outside the district. Vientiane Times went to the district and asked some volunteers about their work.

Mr Phouvieng Thounnavong, a student from SOS Children’s Village in Vientiane: I’m very happy to have registered myself to come here because I want to help the victims, especially children, to feel better after the sadness they have experienced. We have set up a centre for activities aimed at entertaining and educating the children. Our team members have come from Vientiane and many other provinces. We carry out various activities every day and encourage children in the camps to take part. We lead children in playing games or playing together. We also teach them English, mathematics, drawing, reading and writing. We teach them to love and respect each other, and help each other. We also advise them on etiquette or how to conduct themselves properly, and we encourage them so that they will have a bright future – we remind them that even though they are victims of the floods, they should never give up.

A voluntary group teaches children how to properly wash their hands.

Ms Maina Soukkhaphome, a student from SOS Children’s Village in Vientiane: We have come here to organise various activities for the victims, particularly the children, because some of them are still sad, stay in camps all the time and have nothing to do. So, it’s better to have activities for them, than doing nothing and feeling sad or depressed all the time. I think it’s very important to contribute to helping the flood victims by doing whatever we can. I’m interested in this task, so I decided to come here. Helping people is better than doing nothing at all. I’m very happy to make the children smile so they can forget their suffering for some time. I teach the children to dance and making string bracelets. I’m very proud of my work here and the children are very nice and smart. They can understand us well. We have many different activities for the children of all ages each day. We want to help them relax and feel happy. We also distribute sweets or candies to them during breaks. We go to take children from their tents and send them back to their families in the evenings. We also introduce ourselves to their parents so they will allow the children to come with us. It isn’t easy to communicate with some the children because they are from ethnic groups and cannot understand us very well. But we have tried our best in doing our tasks. If children have any conflicts, we help to solve them through suitable methods. We will return to Vientiane soon and I will come again if there is a chance.
Mr Kim Yong Wan, Branch Manager of We Love U Foundation: We organise activities to teach the children confidence and all the activities are useful for them. We educate the children on healthcare, sanitation and cleanliness, including the right way to wash hands. I’m very happy to lead my teams here and help the victims by organising activities and involving them in many things. Many children come to our centre and are happy with our activities. Our foundation works for people and we care for people here as if we are their mothers and they are our children. When the people here are suffering, we want to help and give warmth to them. We aren’t happy if they aren’t happy as we really want to help reduce their suffering. This isn’t the first time we have helped people in Laos. We are from South Korea and our office is based in Thailand. The roads here are not good and it wasn’t easy to come here after the floods. We tried our best and got here to work for the victims. Alongside the activities for children, we cook food daily for their parents or adults. We are very happy to see children and their parents happy with our activities.
Mr Anousone Leuangphavandy, a Lao coordinator of We Love U Foundation: We came here to stay beside the victims and heal them with our activities. We hope they are feeling better after suffering the impact of the floods. We want to share lighten their sadness and suffering through activities that cheer them up and encourage them. We cook many kinds of food for them and teach them English and other subjects. We also educate them about rules, ethics, sanitation and healthcare. Our staff help people here with other works, such as transporting supplies. We try to entertain the children and help them relax so that they can forget this frightening incident that disrupted their lives. We organise activities all day long. We go to take them from their parents and lead them back at the end of every day.
Doctor Bounpheng Sichaleun, a staff member of a health and poverty reduction Organisation from Khammuan province: I’m so happy to come here to work as a volunteer among the victims. I work for a campaign to educate people about sanitation, healthcare, hygiene and nutrition. It’s important work. We work in cooperation with central and Attapeu’s authorities. We educate the children and their parents through many activities on healthcare and sanitation, including cutting nails and clean cooking. We teach people the right ways of using toilets. We explain details of every activity through pictures or videos and demonstrations. We also help them have fun by singing, or playing a song and letting the children sing along and dance. We lead people to clean the camp together. We also organise games and distribute gifts among them, such as cleaning tools or educational materials for children.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update September 22, 2018)

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