Is There Hope for Keomany?
Keomany was born on May 5, 1985 in Thahay, Pakse District, Champasak Province, Laos .She was the second child in a family of 7 children. Her father works for a water company. He earns around 50.US$ per month. Her mother is a housewife who works for other people when there is work. Her family has no farm.
Keomany was born on May 5, 1985 in Thahay, Pakse District, Champasak Province, Laos .She was the second child in a family of 7 children. Her father works for a water company. He earns around 50.US$ per month. Her mother is a housewife who works for other people when there is work. Her family has no farm. Is There a Hope for Keomany? Is she a role model for other young women for the International Women Days Celebration, March 8 ?
Keomany‘s story is typical of children who drop -out of school due to poverty in Laos. When asked, Keomany explained that she dropped out of school because her family is very poor. “I drop-out of school so I can work to help my family,” she said.
Keomany left school in 2000 at the age of 15. She only finished grade 8. In Champasak she worked as a maid for a year and sold food off and on for a year while staying with a friend. At 17, she went to Thailand to work for her relative who married to a Thai man .She stayed in Bangkok for 5 months only, then returned to Champasak. In 2004, she went to Donkoi village in Vientiane to live with her distant relative whom she called aunt. Her aunt introduced her to Donkoi Children Development Center (DCDC). First she heard that Donkoi center has English class, which she wanted to attend even though the class is only meant for DCDC volunteers. Keomany determined to learn English so she asked if she can just sit in and also she likes to be a volunteer at DCDC if we accept her.
Seeing her hard work and her determination to learn, Keomany was accepted after three month of probation. Keomany was assigned to be in the school library to learn basic library work and also helped out and learned everything that are offered at DCDC and Donkoi school like weaving, garbage management, tree planting, gardening, composting, theater and storytelling. , She also attended workshops on Life skills like HIVAIDS, Gender, UN Convention of the Rights of the Child -UNCRC, Child Labor, Child Participation Research and Social work.
After a year, in May 2005, Keomany was selected to be one of the three young Lao women to go to Chiang Rai, Thailand to study Leadership and Trafficking issues at Development Education Program for Daughters and Community DEPDC- for one year. Back from Chiang Rai, Keomany understands more about how children are being lured to human trafficking. One of the main reasons is that they drop-out of school at early age. At DCDC, Keomany taught Child Rights and taught that “children should go to school.”
Also at DCDC, there are three other youths who have now enrolled at the Bachelor of Sociology and Social Development course (BSSD) in the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS) at the National University of Laos(NUOL). These youths have inspired Keomany. She now dreams of studying at NUOL. How can she reach that dream? First she has to finish high school.
So on May 5, 2007 Keomany asked for help so she can pursue non-formal education and DCDC gave her the chance with a small scholarship. Keomany finished the program in September 2007 with a Diploma of High school.
Her next dream is to go to BSSD, FSS, and NUOL in September 2008.
Keomany is now living with her aunt‘s family of six in Donkoi village. Her aunt works from 8 AM to 9 PM selling groceries in the local market while her husband is away. Keomany wakes up at 5AM to steam sticky rice for the family and prepare three children to go to school. At 4:30 PM she comes back from DCDC, she helps prepare dinner and helps the children with homework.
Keomany walks to DCDC from home. It only takes 15 minutes to walk but she does it consistently for three years, as a regular volunteer with small stipend and learned everything that is offered there. DCDC has just given her a bicycle (100 US$) as an award for her hard work, her responsible actions and ethical personality at work and her determination for education.
I always remind all the volunteers and students in all five children centers what my mentor in Vietnam Mme Nguyen this Oanh, an experience development expert, said, “do not ask for money before you work! Just keep working and show people the good results and the money will come.” This advice is certainly true for Keomany, a Lao teenager who works so hard to achieve her small goal as the first step in her life.
Will Keomany achieve her next goal of becoming a University graduate in Social Development so she can help herself, her family and help others in Laos to break the poverty cycle? Wait and see. I can’t help but admire a young poor woman who is strong and determined like Keomany. Keomany could be the role model for young women in our celebration of International Women’ s Day March 8.
- Keomany still has three younger brothers who live with her parents in Champasak .One of her younger brothers also had to drop-out early because he has to work. Keomany can only visit her parents about once a year.
- Global Ministries and Church World Service support 5 children centers like DCDC where there are many others like Keomany.
Xuyen Dangers is a social worker in Laos/Vietnam. She serves as a Social work supervisor of Donkoi child center and 5 other centers, Social work advisor, Faculty of Social Sciences, and the National University of Laos.
More about this project: After School Programs