We first visited the La On Siam Centre in 2014 on an Asia Focus Mission Trip. We knew very little about the ECH Home as it was called at that time but were impressed with the friendliness of the children and the program that was operating.
As a result of that trip, my wife and I felt that we wanted to become a little more involved. We had visited a number of developing countries and knew that the study of English was valued by most as it was seen as a gateway to employment and improved economic security. As we were teachers, we felt we may be able to assist in this area and with encouragement from Jenny Challenger and August Fricke developed some basic English resources that visitors could use in short sessions with the children.
During late 2015 and early 2016 a few have taken up the challenge of living at the home and using the resources to help primary and secondary students to improve their written and spoken English. Some have had more success than others and we felt we needed to spend some time at the Centre this year to gauge the suitability of the materials and how we could make it work better.
Wow! We were surprised with what we found in the first few days at Lao Siam Centre. The pace of life is amazing! Students have long days starting with devotions at 5.30am, breakfast at 6.30 and on their bikes to school by 7.am. They return about 4.15pm and commence homework most days. Dinner is at 5.30pm and Evening devotions at 7.30pm. Lights out (including internet) at 9.30pm. All have rostered jobs that they fit in (with a smile on their faces) between homework and bed. Our building was swept twice a day and mopped every evening. Students help with meal preparation and other chores. On weekends they do most of their washing.
Life is wonderful at the Centre! Kids are happy and genuinely enjoy each other’s company as well as visitors from Aus. They sing and pray with gusto and happily join in games and other fun activities. After dinner the boys love to play soccer in the front yard with an old ball and some bamboo poles that have been lashed together to make 2 very low goals. Some of the girls join in some afternoons and seemed quite skilled also.
On Saturday Koy said that the kids were keen to go fishing. Many sprang into action cutting thin bamboo poles for rods and attaching about 2 metres of line to the end. Others dug worms in the garden for bait and before long we were heading for the small channel adjacent to the rice fields which lie behind the Centre. The fish are silver and quite small but they were all kept and appeared that night in our dinner. Gutted and cooked until crisp they were actually quite tasty. The girls seem to love cooking and we had substantial Thai dishes every meal with much rice and substantial vegies, and often small pieces of chicken or pork. They love spicy food and often served us first before adding the handful of extra chillies.
Students loved the English tutoring when we could squeeze it in to their busy lives. Many do understand basic English words and phrases and really enjoy learning new songs or sentences in English. We had a lot of fun with them, especially in the evening before final devotions. On our last night they sang “Give Thanks with a grateful heart” in English and it was beautiful. On other occasions, we read them well known stories and played fun games to practice words and phrases.
They have a great need for extra computers for homework and assignments and we felt that we could also facilitate some English tutorials if they had more basic computers. Great news!! Very soon the Centre should have a brand new desk top machine with Thai keyboard and a couple of second hand laptops from Australia. Thanks to Good Shepherd College Noosa for resurrecting a couple of their old student machines for this cause. We will load them with appropriate You Tube segments in English as well as basic English tutorials and some cartoons and stories in English.
I am happy to report that La On Siam Centre is a happy and healthy place where the children are nurtured and nourished both physically and spiritually. We were amazed at the level of responsibility shown by students and the love they have for the Centre and its leader.
With the assistance of Mali (cook and general assistant), Koy is doing a wonderful job in raising this group of fine young people. It was a privilege for Jan and I to be part of their lives for almost two weeks.
Jan and Ian Louttit