July Monthly Achievement Report: Cultural Experiences
• Inform and immerse volunteers in traditional Lao/Buddhist activities
• Facilitating language exchange between interested volunteers, teachers and community members
• Provide authentic and life-changing volunteer experiences to GVI volunteers, which simultaneously address local needs in the areas of English Education and the Arts
• Identify local partner organizations in the area and seek to develop strong, mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships
• To establish ourselves as a valued and responsible organization in the community
In addition to teaching English, this month volunteers have had the exciting opportunity to become informed and immersed in Lao culture through several cultural activities. These enrich their experience and provide invaluable perspectives that help them better understand their students and adapt their lessons to account for Lao culture and history.
GVI Laos partner and Luang Prabang entrepreneur KK gave a culture talk about women’s changing role in Laos. She detailed her story about searching for self-determination while living in a deeply traditional Lao society where the woman’s role is still often confined to the private sphere. Drawing on her story, she was able to give volunteers significant awareness regarding gender roles in Laos, and provide an understanding about the cultural and social barriers faced by women in relation to education and economic participation.
Ms. Keo is a Lao teacher who has joined us on the National Scholarship Program (NSP). This month, Ms. Keo has been conducting Lao lessons twice a week for the volunteers. This rare opportunity to learn Lao from a native speaker has been a wonderful cultural experience and has allowed volunteers to put themselves in their students’ shoes; providing them with valuable insight into the difficulties of learning a language. Volunteers have then applied this new understanding to the lesson planning process and adjusted teaching techniques to reflect this. Ms. Keo also gave a culture talk about the education system in Laos and the realities associated with balancing the pressure to secure basic-needs while seeking an education in a developing country. Additionally, the volunteers also had the unique opportunity to visit Ms. Keo’s farm located in a village across the Mekong River where few tourists explore. They were shown around the farm; they learnt about the process of growing mushrooms in a sustainable way, how to fish with a net, and discussed the benefits and difficulties associated with farming in Laos. They then received a Lao cooking lesson and left with full bellies, tired feet but happy hearts.
Finally, throughout July volunteers and staff were lucky enough to be invited to two temples. The first was at Wat Boupha Vipassnaram where they participated in the daily chanting and meditation. The second was at Wat PasaViet, where volunteers were invited by a student and ex-novice to attend their candlelight ceremony for the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Volunteers observed the chanting and the lighting of candles with a blessing. They then joined the novices as they walked around the temple three times with candles and incense, as drums, cymbals and chanting engulfed the temple in the background. The ceremony ended by placing the candles near a statue of Buddha and making a wish. We were all very honoured to be a part of such a special ceremony. These experiences have allowed volunteers to relate closer to their students and strengthened their understanding of religion and culture in Laos.
Written by Field Staff Member Leyla Isin
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