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Report from Laos: Sunday, November 15 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Report from Laos: Sunday, November 15

By Gerard Snowball

Before the Carter Work Project build begins

Tom Stone, our photojournalist, and I arrived a few days early to meet with the home partners and staff and to capture some pre-event interviews and images. We drove to the build site at Ban [village] Chan Savang―about 10 miles from Vientiane, the Lao capital—in an old Cold-War era car. With doors that barely closed and 38-Celsius-degree air conditioning provided by opening the windows, we cut our way across town and passed through the urban areas, noting where some had prospered since the opening of the Thailand-Lao border in 1994 and where others were still living in very rudimentary conditions.

Upon arriving at the village, we set out to meet with the families that were partnering with the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Guided by Habitat for Humanity Laos and Thailand staff and local partner—the Community Development and Environment Association—we walked through the village in hopes of meeting with as many families as possible to hear about their dreams. As we moved from family to family, we saw the signs of daily village life, and we saw the women and children for whom the Carter Work Project will provide a platform for better family health and household security.

Volunteers feast on Lao delicacies. Photo for Habitat for Humanity by Tom Stone


We were soon joined by Kip Scheidler from Habitat for Humanity International in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Through Saturday and Sunday, we met with key CDEA and local Habitat staff, preparing for the arrival of volunteers on Sunday evening and the opening of the project early the following morning.

A kickoff feast

Sunday concluded with the arrival of the volunteers, staff and partners, who were then taken to a dinner where they were all treated to a traditional Lao feast. Lao staff and volunteers introduced a variety of different foods to the country’s visitors. They taught volunteers from as far away as Korea, the United States and Australia how to cook the food themselves on a fiery barbecue and boiler that was set in the middle of their tables. Those daring enough tried some Lao delicacies and for the most part, were pleasantly surprised.

Then again, why be surprised? Considering that Laos sits at the hub of several great culinary nations—Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam—the food was bound to be excellent, which completed the warm welcome to the 2009 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

Gerard Snowball is the regional resource development manager for Habitat for Humanity Asia Pacific.