Sleepy Luang Prabang in northern Laos was at the start of its journey to become a world renowned cultural destination in 2005. Only a few tourists from the UK found their way to this part of South East Asia. One of them was Alan Shiel from London. A chance meeting with a young Novice Monk resulted in the formation of LEOT on his return home.
Our first two scholarship students commenced their studies in Vientiane in 2006. One of them was the novice monk that Alan met on his very first visit. LEOT’s growth in the early years was slow as we depended on finding people that had visited Laos. Most of our supporters and sponsors came from the UK and were people that had visited Laos on their holidays and had fallen in love with the country and its people.
2010 was an important year as it marked the graduation of our very first students. We were thrilled at their success. At that time it was only a dream for poor students to study at university.
The popularity of Laos as a tourist spot resulted in us having twelve students in the programme with most studying in Luang Prabang and some in Vientiane. Nearly all were telling us of the importance of learning English.
Thanks to the generosity of two donors from the UK and Australia we had sufficient funds to build the LEOT English School. It took a while to find and buy suitable land and Christmas Day 2011 was a very special as we started building. The school was completed by a fantastic local team and was fully fitted out by summer 2012. Classes started under Alan’s supervision in September with just eighty students. Numbers rose steadily and we will reach capacity this year with about two hundred and fifty students. Thanks to the opening of the school we soon attracted volunteers from the UK and many other countries. Most of our volunteers being skilled teachers others with IT or marketing skills. One volunteer fixed all the students bikes and another made us furniture. In June 2016 we will complete our fourth year of teaching. We are proud that all our teachers are now young Laos graduates supported by volunteers from many countries.
As we grew we began to visit the country homes of our students. Some were on the outskirts of town and others along dusty dirt roads in the countryside. Many homes were very basic often with dirt floors, no water or electricity. Schools varied considerably from wooden shacks to relatively sound buildings provided by donations from abroad. We started to help these villages with the gifts of clothing, books and pencils from gifts made by supporters in the UK. Over the years the gifts have kept coming and we make sure all are delivered to needy children.
In 2013 we started our outreach programme helping villages with the provision of clean water, electricity and building materials. We work with other Laos organisations to provide emergency aid such as bedding and food supplies. We hope that in soon our Laos teachers will be able hold classes in the villages near Luang Prabang.
Now there are still many people that need our help. We have plans to start a vocational training programme for the many young people that could not go to school and are unable to find work as they did not have skills.
To do this we must have more money! Please help us. We promise to spend every penny in Laos helping the poor.