Vientiane College students making a difference in rural primary schools

December 2, 2012

Children at Dongnaxok Primary School receive educational materials from Vientiane College Access students.

Children at Dongnaxok Primary School receive educational materials from Vientiane College Access students.

Dongnaxok Primary School in Vientiane and Nahin Primary School in Khammuan province were buzzing with excitement last week when students from the Vientiane College Access programme paid them a visit to donate school supplies.

The Access students had bought the materials with money raised through their Design for Change project ‘Fair Share’ event held in July.

Design for Change is a project-based learning tool and global movement which gives children the chance to express their own ideas for a better world and put them into action. Through Design for Change, children discover the ‘I can’ message, rather than asking adults ‘can I?’.

Design for Change uses a four step process centering on the themes ‘feel’ (what bothers you?), ‘imagine’ (how can you solve this or improve the situation?), ‘do’ (take action and implement your solutions) and ‘share’ (tell others about your story of change).

The process empowers children and makes them realise they can make a change and influence their communities.

This year Design for Change was supported by the Participatory Development Training Centre and introduced to 10 schools in January, who were asked to take up the challenge and run Design for Change in their schools.

Six schools have currently completed the initiative, namely Sompanya School, Sunshine School, Donkoy Children’s Development Centre, Veunteun Village Children’s Centre, Vientiane College, and Chomphet Secondary School in Xieng Khuang province.

At Vientiane College, the Access Programme started the Design for Change process in March. Access is a two year programme funded by the American Embassy to benefit underprivileged children from rural provinces.

Three classes and 60 students have been involved in Design for Change this year. In the ‘feel’ stage they chose the problem of many schools in Laos being under-resourced. In the ‘imagine’ stage, they brainstormed ideas about how they could help or improve the situation.

They decided to hold a fundraising event to raise money for Dongnasok Primary School in Vientiane and Nahin Primary School in Khammuan province, and the ‘Fair Share’ event was born.

They asked for donations of old clothes and household items to sell, and organised a car wash, bake sale, carnival games and face painting to raise money.

In addition, the students worked really hard to prepare entertainment on the day – including songs and a play performed by students and teachers, Lao pop singers, and Design for Change Laos ambassador, Aluna, who joined the students for a performance of the ‘I can’ or ‘Khoi hed dai’ song.

After counting up the money they’d raised, the students bought school supplies and sports equipment for Dongnasok and Nahin primary schools. The Access students then made a daytime trip to Dongnasok where they engaged the children in student-led activities and presented the educational materials.

The Access students also made an overnight trip to Khammuan province to visit Nahin Primary School, where they again handed over their donation of school supplies.

The Access students and teachers were greeted by Nahin staff and students with handmade flower garlands, a delicious lunch made with local food, and a formal presentation by all the children. This was followed by a sports session using the new equipment that was part of the donation.

Daleen Butler, a teacher on the Access programme, said “Design for Change is a hands-on learning experience. The students have been able to practice a range of English communication and life skills during the process, and all for a good purpose and in a real life setting.”

“They have gained confidence and seen first hand how they can work together to achieve a common goal in the community. They were all engaged in the process, and were eager to share their experiences within their community.”

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