Lathsene Village is located in Phaxai District, 11 kilometers southwest of Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang Province. The village is home to 82 families and 494 people. Average annual income ranges from $300 to 500, most derived from farming.
Lathsene holds preschool in old dilapidated building, which is unusable and deemed unsafe for the preschool children. Lathsene has an informal preschool program for children, living in Lathsene and three smaller villages; Nasome, Nako and Ton villages. Many parents have taken their children out of the preschool class. The Lathsene Village preschool enrolls children 3, 4 and 5 years old.
Lathsene is located close to the Plain of Jars, where thousand-year-old stone jars are scattered around the plains.
Lathsene Village was severely bombed during the Secret War. Village elders shared their horrific experiences during the war. They describe how the Americans bombed their villages for a week at a time. They would dig ditches near the rice fields where they worked because there was not enough time to run home. Unfortunately, many either died from the bombing or died from starvation in the ditches.
They are happy to have been living in peace since the mid-1970s. It's allowed them to rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives.
They shared the new preschool not only provides the preschool children a safe place for the children to learn, but it symbolizes an optimism for their village and their children's future. Give Children A Choice with the gracious support from Legacies of War provided them a new preschool. UNICEF plans to build a new elementary school for the Lathsene children in the near future.
The Lathsene Village one-room preschool was funded through the Legacies of Warâ€™s Schools Not Bombs Campaign.
July 28, 2008
Give Children A Choiceâ€™s Thongchanh Vilayvong introduces Give Children A Choice to the Xieng Khouang Provincial Education Department and its mission to build and fill preschools with children. Both organizations agree to work together.
August 22, 2008
Legacies of War accompanied Give Children a Choice to meet and introduce themselves to the Xieng Khouang Provincial Education Department officials. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Provincial Education Department and Give Children A Choice to build a one-room preschool at Lathsene Village.
Legacies of War members gave presents to the children and staff. All attended a baci celebration the village leaders organized to honor us for building them a much-needed preschool. The children gave us flowers and the elders blessed us by tying strings on our wrists and chanting verses about good health, prosperity and happiness to us.
August 25, 2008
We were greeted by a village elder and historian. He is a man in his fifties, but looks much older from the ravages of war. Lathsene is a village that has survived massive bombings during the American War. He described how villagers had to dig trenches close to the rice fiels to jump into, when they heard US planes approaching. Whole communities hid for days and weeks in the trenches without food or water. Some died in the trenches.
They were finally forced to leave their village as the mounting casualties were too great only to return when the war was over in 1975. Bomb craters are littered everywhere. The very land we stood on was not cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
In 1986, the Soviet government sent a team of agriculture specialists to help these refugees reclaim their land and grow rice, other crops and raise cattle. They built homes and office buildings and provided equipment. They left in 1995.
In the Russianâ€™s opinion, the land was so filled with UXOs and with limited resources that they covered the UXOs with mounds of dirt. During the early years after heavy rains, UXOs were found and eliminated by the village engineers or they just worked around them.
He shared that another major concern for the village is the village is without water for at least two months each year. They must drive over 5 kilometers to the next town to buy water or get water from the local well. As a result, water is a much needed commodity and it is rationed heavily.
The Lathsene village work very hard to support each other. They share the little water they acquire with those unable to get water because of age, disease or disability. When someone is sick or hurt, they all gather not only to find out what is wrong. They give open opinions on what is the best way to deal with the situation. When a solution is reached, they all join together to address it.
No one is really alone in Laos. Everyone is a brother or sister.
September 26, 2008
Seven members from the Education Department, the construction company and Give Children A Choice's Thongchanh were present for the 50% inspection checkpoint. The construction is ahead of schedule, now 71% complete. The builder reached the 50% mark a couple of weeks ago.
The preschool building is up. The finish work, the preschool classroom floors, final plumbing and other details need to be completed. School desks and chairs are being built. Thongchanh will watch over some of the other supplier deliverables, e.g., electricity, fans and lights, storage and library cabinets, toy blocks, etc.
October 27, 2008
Give Children A Choiceâ€™s Thongchanh Vilayvong traveled to Xieng Khouang Province on October 26, 2008. He met with the Education Department, construction company, the village leaders for the final inspection. It passed with flying colors!
The building is complete, the school desks and cabinets were delivered, the blackboard was mounted. The preschool looks gorgeous and is ready for classes to begin.
The preschool has been provided story books, mats for the children to sit and nap on. Wooden toy blocks are being made at the local furniture factory and will be delivered shortly.
November 17, 2008
We visited the preschool. Upon our arrival, the children and preschools teacher were there to greet us. Then, immediately, they ran to the preschool, took their shoes off and scurried into their classroom. Their teacher was incredibly passionate and animated. The children were attentive and engaged.
Give Children A Choice in cooperation with the Xieng Khouang Provincial Health Department, Mother and Child Division held a healthfair at Lathsene Village. Doctors from New York's St. Barnabas Hospital provide medical checkups. Health, hygiene and nutrition demonstrations and brochures are given to the children. Goodie bags (with soap, vitamins, medicine, soap, paper and pens) are distributed to the children.