Leen and Ruben

We are Leen and Ruben from Brussels. Having worked for several years in the social sector, we decided to quit our jobs to travel; for a few months in South East Asia, then to Australia.

After traveling a while we wanted to spend our days a bit more useful than just visiting cities and attractions, so we went looking for a – preferably, small scale - project where we could do volunteer work for a short while. After a little surfing on the internet we came across the site helplaos.nl. The projects described there, appealed to us immediately.

After having contacted Adrie and some phone calls and emails back and forth we arrived in Ban Thamouang in August 2014, where we would be staying in the volunteer house of the project for 3 weeks. The accommodation was basic but more than enough. We were glad we finally had a kitchen for ourselves where we could cook, though it was on a coal stove.

As for the volunteering itself, this started a bit unlucky. Apparently the Laotian authorities have become more stringent regarding volunteers, and we needed an official permission before we could get started. Unfortunately, it took two weeks before all the paperwork was in order and we could begin to teach English to the children.

So we spent the first two weeks exploring the area: the 4000 islands, Khone Phapheng waterfalls, go to the market in one of the surrounding villages ... we also gave occasional English lessons to Mr. Bounchan himself and to Malaiphone and Khing Kham, two girls who are in the organization of the KCDA. We took them occasionally to the nearby hotel to go on the internet.

Furthermore, we visited with Mr. Bounchan two schools under construction in Khinak and Nakasang. We made the acquaintance of some teachers and received extensive information about how schools are organized there, which was very interesting. The school in Khinak was almost ready, but the construction of the school in Nakasang unfortunately was at a standstill for a while because funds were lacking.

The last week of August we finally received the good news that we got permission to teach and so Mr. Bounchan could invite the children to come to class. Since the children were free from school because of vacation, we had the chance to teach them English every day and to get to know the children from the neighborhood. We were happy, because this was surely why we had ultimately chosen for volunteering. After this intensive week it was departure time for us, and after a farewell ceremony and party, we moved on with our head full of beautiful memories.

It was a very nice and educational experience, and certainly a challenge, between traveling here and there and the comfort of guest rooms and guesthouses to feel at home for three weeks in a place where we felt useful. And we realized once more that you really do not need much to be happy. A must for everyone!