SOS Children's Villages has been working in Laos since 1993 – decades of fighting and destruction have brought the country to an economic standstill, resulting in a growing number of children and families in need of support. In 1999, Xiengkhouang became the third location in the country where we started working.
One of the poorest regions in Laos
Children in our care grow up having fun with their brothers and sisters (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Village Xiengkhouang is situated in Ban Nam Ngam, one of the suburbs of the town of Phonsavan, located around 435 km from the capital city of Vientiane. Phonsavan is the capital of Xiengkhouang province in the north-east of the country.
The inhabitants of this province live mainly off agriculture and cattle breeding. Phonsavan itself is a commercial centre, with a market and small businesses which produce crafts or silk cloth. The area also attracts tourists to its natural sites and to the unique Plain of Jars historical site, where hundreds of stone jars dating from the Iron Age are found on the hills near the town.
The province is among the most deprived and remote in the country. Some parents do not earn enough to provide their children with the amount and type of food they require and the children suffer from malnutrition. Other parents manage to meet the basic needs but can only dream of sending their children to school.
The region was badly affected during the fighting and many unexploded munitions are left over in the countryside. The existence of these explosives continues to shape the lives of the local population: many cannot farm their land because it is contaminated. In order to generate some income children and adults often go out looking for scrap metal to sell; but this is a dangerous endeavour which can kill or injure them.
We adapt our work according to the local needs
SOS Children's Villages started working in Xiengkhouang as a response to the area's economic and social situation, which meant that many people were living in hardship. Our work has adapted to the changing needs of the local population by providing specialised care to malnourished children, loving homes to children whose lives have been affected by explosives and an education for many who would otherwise not go to school.
What we do in Xiengkhouang
An SOS family planting flowers in the garden (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Village Xiengkhouang offers various services to support the local population. Given the area's high rates of child malnutrition, the SOS Social Centre looks after malnourished children from the neighbourhood. While they are in our care, they are monitored and receive a nutritious diet, vitamin supplements and vaccinations. Once they reach a normal weight, they go back to live with their families, but we keep in touch to ensure that they continue to thrive.
Children who can no longer live with their families and need long-term loving care can move into one of the twelve SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are looked after by the SOS mothers.
The SOS Kindergarten can be attended by up to 100 children from both the SOS families and from the neighbourhood. As the children spend time together, they become friends. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who receive training or go to work - they know that their children are being cared for by professionals. As children grow older they can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School which provides students with both a primary and a secondary education. There is a canteen at the school so that children can get a daily nutritious meal.
When the young adults are ready to move out of the SOS families they can join the SOS Youth Programme. They live here while they attend further education, receive training or start their working lives. With the help of professionals the young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.