Muang Sing, Laos. May 20th - 23rd, 2010

The butterfly children's center in Muang Sing, northern Laos, provides scholarships to children and functions as a drop-in center for underprivileged children.

We buy stationary for the center, do workshops with the children, and make a monetary donation.

NameButterfly Children Development Center and School, Muang Sing, Laos
AimSupport them with education / scholarships, and pediactric healthcare 
StaffBryan Watts and Leila Srour
People reached300 primary school children 
Butterfly Children's Development Center
PO Box 10
Muang Sing
Luang Namtha

Donationdonations in kind + 300 USD (439 USD)

Laos has deserved its reputation of the most laid-back country in southern Asia. People seem to be happy sipping on a pint of beerlao watching the tourists stroll by.

But the reality behind the friendly faces is often tougher than we wish to recognize. Child labor, lack of education, HIV/Aids, and depleting natural resources are all signs of Laos' incapability to deal with the unstoppable forces of progress. 

We visit the Butterflychildren school and children Development Center in Muang Sing, run by two highly motivated American expats that have struggled for their allowance to operate here with relative independence. They work in coordination with a small ngo called Healthfrontiers.

Bryan and Leila are incredibly hospitable people and we are very positively overwhelmed when they invite us for lunch on their balcony and tell us about their projects here. They run a Children Development Center for afterschool activities, with a computer lab, English lessons, and many activities that are so valuable in a child's upbringing, ranging from paper maché to puppetry and from volleyball to painting. They have also started to build a five classroom school serving children from nearby villages that now stay at home. The Development Center will be moved to the school upon its planned opening in August 2010.
Leila is a pediatrician by profession and has trained many Lao doctors in the capital, Vientiane, visited uncountable rural hospitals and has made an invaluable contribution in this quiet country. Bryan is a photographer and takes care of the computer lab, where the children learn math and basic computer skills.

At four pm about twenty children gather around the porch, eagerly awaiting the daily activities at the Butterfly Center. At first, we don't know how to handle them, having no common language and hesitantly trying to signal them our intentions. The children did understand what we wanted them to do quicker than we had expected, and soon they were tossing the soccer ball back and forth. We teach them different games enhancing their social skills, their self-confidence, and their sense of community. Seriously? Of course, they are just for fun! And we all have fun. Inspired by the lovely children, we cook dinner that night, and enjoy a movie together.

The next day we combine the exciting with the useful on a beautiful trip to the local market, and several hardware stores where we buy stationary, toys, and tools for the Development Center. We prepare for the four pm meeting and again, we have a great time with the children. We stay a few days with Bryan and Leila, and we have a great time. If you are ever in Laos and good with children or willing to make a meaningful contribution, their place is highly recommended.

Over dinner with a befriended German couple, we learn about the difficulties that ngo's face in Laos, and most of those difficulties are caused by the fact that operational goals are being determined from behind overseas office desks. Adorned with non-profit buzzwords like "capacity building", "gender", and "economic improvement" they impose certain strategies upon the Lao countryside that might have been successful elsewhere, yet here only manage to bury tax payer's millions.

It emboldened our conviction that developmental measures need to start at early age, by gradually improving the education system and communicating a sense of resourcefulness to the next generation of Laotians that make them thrive in a world where neither the Thai nor the Chinese are going to wait for them. It has turned out that we have supported exactly the right cause here.

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