The Beauty Held Within

The Beauty Held Within

The same beauty, stillness, and peacefulness that comes with the setting of the sun resembles the culture of #Laos and its people…

Nicole Betteridge serves as a Global Mission Intern in Laos.  Her work with Global Ministries is funded by your offerings to Week of Compassion.

The same beauty, stillness, and peacefulness that comes with the setting of the sun at the end of each day, resembles the culture of Laos and its people. Although the Lao have faced many challenges over the years, they respond to potential conflicts with grace, glory, ease, and strong perseverance. Lao people are not one to start disagreements or cause tension between people. They approach situations with calmness and clarity. Lao culture is about community, through generosity, love, and close friendships and family life. In addition, Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, rarely feels as a city with its tranquil atmosphere, and numerous markets and family homes where people are often seen gathered together.

Carrying on Lao traditions, through song, weaving and dance is important to Lao culture. Many students learn and practice songs and dances at school. They then perform at competitions, church events, or for other celebrations. At many primary schools, including the two where I teach, students not only practice and perform indigenous dances, but also learn various songs in English and Lao. Recently the Dankoi students learned “Old McDonald’s Farm” and “All the Children of the World” in English and Lao. Popular English songs at Providence are “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, “Jingle Bells”, and “If You’re Happy And You Know It”.

Dankoi Children’s Development Center and other development centers also benefit students in allowing them to express themselves creatively. The centers allow students to learn by doing, which, in my opinion, is how children learn best. Popular activities at Dankoi Children’s Development Center include, but are not limited to, dance, songs, beautiful weavings, paper bag making, paper mache, claymation, and gardening. Development Centers are, therefore, an important asset in the lives of these school children. Activities done at Dankoi Children’s Development Center as well as other children development centers not only allow students to express themselves creatively and carry on deep Lao traditions, but also increase students social skills, confidence, and provide a safe community that seeks to prevent children from being victims of human trafficking, kidnapping, drugs, or alcohol.

The Lao Evangelical Church seeks to meet individual’s medical and educational needs, in addition to their spirituality needs. Therefore, the Lao Evangelical Church helps operate a kindergarten and primary school in Vientiane. I teach English at Dankoi Primary School, Providence Kindergarten and Primary School [primary school of the Lao Evangelical Church] , as well as to some of the adult members of the Lao Evangelical Church each week. The majority of Lao people know little to no English. English, however, has become a sought after skill to have in Laos. Knowing English means that the opportunities for Lao people increase drastically, in Laos as well as outside of the country. Students and adults are always eager to learn how to read and pronounce many English words and sentences.

Life can change in the blink of an eye. For many Lao people this statement has become very real. During the Vietnam War [1950-1975] over 260 million cluster bombs were air-dropped and landed throughout Laos. Approximately 80 million sub-munitions containing cluster bombs failed to explode during or after the Vietnam War. People continue to dig for cluster bombs, as their metal is valuable, but in the process individuals can get very hurt. Statistics show around 50,000 people were injured or killed from 1964-2010 due to unexploded ordnance (UXO’s). Many others have been hurt in the last several years as well. The National Rehabilitation Center, COPE Center, and Lao Women’s Development Center, all in Vientiane, exist to help people who have been affected by bombs as well as those who have disabilities as a result of natural causes or other accidents. These organizations not only help people regain their strength and mobility, but also supply wheelchairs and prosthetics if needed for individuals. Programs and education through the National Rehabilitation Center also teach Braille to blind children and sign language to the deaf and mute.

The Lao Women’s Development Center is also an important resource for those with disabilities as services are provided to help increase people’s social and vocational skills, in training individuals to sew and weave clothes, making paper products (i.e. paper bags, paper picture frames), and growing and harvesting mushrooms.

Each week I spend time playing games, reading stories, and teaching English to amputees as well the blind, deaf, and mute children at the National Rehabilitation Center. These children also see the beauty beyond their disability as they greet others with a smile and engage in all sorts of activities with friends and volunteers. The services provided by the National Rehabilitation have not only improved children’s social skills and confidence in themselves, but increased their mobility and access to prosthetics and wheelchairs. The children and adults look beyond their disability into a bright and beautiful future where they feel empowered and are able to gain back their independence.

Within the short time, four months, I have been in Laos so far, I have found indescribable radiance that exists within the people of Laos. Lao see beauty in many situations and keep a sense of humor and smiles, rather than becoming angry. It brings them great joy to share and pass on deep Lao traditions. Lao are eager to learn English, and are at ease and grateful for programs, such as those at the National Rehabilitation Center, which help individuals see into a bright future.

I am very blessed to work and discover the beauty held within Laos as a Global Mission Intern.

I thank you for your love, support, offerings, and prayers that go toward the people of Laos