The GIVE Laos Education Fund

By Carly Schade

Laos Regional Coordinator

In the remote, alluring village of Sop Chem, Laos there are 57 families full of eager students with the desire to continue their education to secondary school. With each family living off an average of about $3 a day, their income doesn’t allow for much to spare for the expenses of secondary school. But, if there are students eager for an education, we believe they should have accessibility to that opportunity. So with that, we developed our Laos Education Fund!

The Ed Fund is a system where students can earn school-focused “scholarships” through a tiered reward system where they are compensated in relation to the amount of hours they put into the GIVE projects. In essence, it’s a summer job but their pay is school! Anyone can qualify for this if they meet the equal standards of attending English education sessions and working on the worksite. Not to mention, the worksite is way more fun when Nic, Bounthan, Miss Don, and all the crazy teens are around. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

This is our second year with our Ed Fund in action and the growth this program has experienced in just one year has been exponential. Though, with our Sop Chem teens thinking this opportunity was “too good to be true,” it took time to develop trust through the process. It was a balance of earning our trust while also holding them accountable for their commitment. After an extremely successful first year, we decided to transfer the management of the program into the hands of the community. This was done by empowering two lead teens to keep daily attendance, providing reports to the students’ parents, and hosting community meetings to organize the success of these scholarship opportunities.

Miss Don and Nic were the two teens who took charge of attendance. Miss Don took on this role with pride, professionalism, and excitement. She stepped into the role of leader and didn’t miss a beat when it came to her daily tasks – even if Thok tried to bribe her with Oreos. Nic stepped up with his responsibilities while still finding time to go shrimping at night with his friends, an opportunity that simply cannot be missed.

And our Ed Fund would be nothing without Gi, the woman who took ownership of collecting sizes for all uniforms, shoes, and additional supplies. Gi is a leading woman in the community that the community respects and looks up to. She helps manage the Ed Fund in addition to all other aspects of our daily GIVE program, including managing the laundry for Kmu families without as many assets as others. Not to mention, she is the first woman to run for chief in the history of Sop Chem! The final vote has not been completed but word on the street is that she made it in the top three, which means she scored a community leadership role no matter what. What a freaking woman.

Flash forward to the end of the summer, with the payoff of much hard-work and accountability, there was indeed a successful outcome. We closed the season with 31 students meeting the top-tier goal with reward of uniforms, shoes, book bag, and books! And 11 students meeting the second-tier goal with the reward of uniforms.

Compared to our first year, 12 more students were awarded scholarships and 20 more students made the goal of 75% attendance. With the success in our growth, we are confident in the progression possible for next year. And we would not be able to even offer these opportunities without the support of the Students4Students donations from our past GIVE volunteers. If you would like continue supporting these opportunities, you can donate here.

We are incredibly proud of our teens who have taken the initiative necessary to build opportunities for their future. There is prosperity in international development with the foundation of education and empowering local leadership. Sop Chem is a beautiful example of how their asset based community development drives them forward.