Welcome to Give Children A Choice.
In 1982, I committed that I would give back and help children in 2000, when my kids were out of school. I did not know how, where and in what way. In 2000, I still did not know and was compelled to fulfill my commitment by backpacking alone in Southeast Asia to give myself dedicated think time. (Why South Asia? No good reason. My cousin recommended it.)
Starting in Bangkok and meandering aimlessly north to Chiang Khong, I took a small dingy across the Mekong River and set foot in Laos near the Chinese border. Three days later, after two long grueling days down the Mekong River, I stepped off a cargo boat in Lao’s old royal capital Luang Prabang. There, I discovered poverty. There I found personal passion for the first time in my life. It was a committed passion to help Lao children in poor rural villages. I knew nothing about Laos, its government, its people. It didn’t matter. I committed.
My passion prevails today. It was so strong, I moved to Laos with my wife Barbara in 2011. Little did I know that her passion to help children surpasses mine.
Give Children A Choice was founded in 2002.
During its early days, Give Children A Choice was charting random, new paths on the roadless traveled in China, Cambodia and Laos. Building a primary school “close to the sun”, above the tea terraces along the Sichuan/Yunnan border in China. Taking vulnerable, scavenging primary school-aged girls from the Phnom Penh city dumps and putting them in school. (Many are going to college now.) In Laos, installing a water system, electricity and our first preschool in a remote village, where the village leader trusted us and supported our efforts. Preschools hit the spot.
Credited with pioneering preschool education in Luang Prabang’s rural villages, Give Children A Choice’s model empowered the provincial education department with model schools to promote preschool education to larger NGOs with deep pockets. Success was declared in 2007-2008, after we built 15 preschools and a large NGO committed to 100 preschools and more thereafter. At that point, Give Children A Choice hoped to replicate its program elsewhere. They introduced preschools to Xieng Khouang Provincial Education and Sports Department.
But, it didn’t stop there. Little did we know about the horrific 1960s US Secret War, which centered in Xieng Khouang. The war’s vestiges left hundreds of thousands or millions of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on these tainted lands. More ghastly, children and their families were damaged and languishing by exploding UXO and living on tainted land, keeping them impoverished.
Our mission to fill schools with children expanded to helping UXO survivors family children to stay in school. One thing led to another. We became advocates for the children and their families, including testifying in US Congress in 2010 to discuss “UXO and Laos”, discussing the impact on the villagers.
Circa 2012, the Ministry of Education began re-shifting its attention to preschool education and integrating preschool education into the national education system. We patted ourselves on our backs. The Luang Prabang Education and Sports Department exclaimed on New Year’s Day 2015 that their provincial preschool program receive national notoriety, thanks to Give Children A Choice.
Today, Barbara and I have moved to Laos to continue our work. Debbie keeps our business operations in order in the USA. Thongchanh is our loyal staff, who’s been with us since 2000. With two of its principals living in Laos, Give Children A Choice has an opportunity to grow its impact.
Our original and core mission continues. We now fulfill dreams to help Lao children. Transforming charity and development models into social venture models may be our biggest contribution to the Lao children and their future.
Explore our website to learn more. Fulfill your dream. Contact us.