On February 14, 2012, Give Children A Choice’s Barbara Shimoda signed an MOU with Xieng Khouang’s Provincial Education Head Mr. Boualee to build a model preschool in Namyen Village. Namyen Village is located deep in Mok District in south east Xieng Khouang Province and its residents are Hmong.

The model school is part of a broader government strategy to create economic clusters of villages, where multiple villages share common resources (e.g., healthcare, education, agriculture services, etc.), produce and market a common set of product (e.g., corn, tobacco, etc.). Our preschool will be part of a more global education structure of preschool, primary school and secondary schools. We were invited to participate in this program and we excitedly accepted.

Our first priority was to survey the school footprint and school grounds for UXO. We want to make sure the children will have a safe place to go to and to play at school. The survey and clearance work will begin this week of March 19, 2012.

Note: The USA dropped 260 million bombies during the Secret War from the mid-1960s to early 1970s in Laos. 70-80 million are still live, ready to maim or kill unsuspecting adults or children. A large number of bombies were dropped in Xieng Khouang Province. Records show that many were dropped in Mok District, so we prefer to be safe than sorry. UXO Lao will be surveying and clearing our preschool grounds for us. Below are some pictures of bomb craters left from the war over 40 years ago as well as pictures of bombies and bombie bomb shells that contained the bombies before being released from the bombers. Bombies are also called bomblets, cluster munitions.

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We will be building a three-room preschool with an administrative office, bathrooms with running water, electricity with fans and lights. The school will have furniture and supplies. Our expectation is to complete the school in four months. It will be ready for the new school year.

The Ministry of Education has increased the requirements and recommendations for new school construction. The architecture plans provided to us by the Xieng Khouang Education Department reflected these changes. Give Children A Choice chose to follow the recommendations, recognizing that the expense is higher. Our goal is to continue to build model schools for the education department to present to larger NGOs with the hope that a larger NGO would make a commitment to build a larger number of schools (similar to our success in Luang Prabang, where our best practice model schools caused a very large NGO to build 100s of preschools similar to our preschools. The Luang Prabang Education Department gave us credit for this success, which made us proud.)

The Namyen school will cost almost $60,000. Give Children A Choice submitted the school proposal to nine construction companies. We chose a company that committed to our budget, our specifications, our warranty terms and our timeline.

Our builder Mr. Keomanyvanh visited Namyen in late February when the roads opened up. The main road to Namyen was destroyed from the heavy flooding during the heavy rainy season in 2011. We will visit Namyen this week and early April before the New Year’s celebration to spend time with the village leaders, parents and children.

We will educate the villagers about our vitamin project and stress the importance of daily multiple vitamins. When we visited Namyen in February 2011, the villager leaders did not believe the children were malnourished, yet we saw a number of children with light- (blondish) colored hair, which is a sign of malnutrition. We continue to follow the learning and training process consistent with the public health department vitamin project program.

We’ll keep you updated with the Namyen school progress.

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