After participating in the Sunburst Youth Camp (SYC) in 2004, Vanida Luangthepxayavong was inspired to spread the Sunburst spirit and give back to her community by conducting English lessons for village children in Vientiane, Laos. While she had managed to garner the support of a local school to hold her English lessons in their classrooms, the classrooms were run down and not conducive for learning.
When the Singapore Chapter of the Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (STEP) Alumni heard about Vanida’s project, they wanted to lend a hand.
“We first organised a preliminary trip to Laos to speak to officials from the Lao People Revolutionary Youth Union. From the trip, we were given some guidelines on the various regulations we had to follow and the needs of the school, which helped us crystalise our ideas,” said Rico Lim Kaibin, a STEP alumni who attended SYC in 2010.
After detailed planning, Rico and eight other youths from the Singapore Chapter met with ten Lao Alumni in Vientiane. Together, the team converted an unused room into a classroom, refurbishing the room by giving it a fresh coat of paint and cleaning used desks and chairs. They also conducted English lessons for over 50 children between the ages of 6 and 11.
“One important lesson we learnt was how to rectify issues on the spot. We realised that due to the age gap, the students absorbed the information at difference speeds. Hence, we had to adjust the lesson plans according to how well the students were taking in the information,” says Rico.
Reflecting on the trip, Charmaine Lim, a STEP alumnus, says “It was indeed heartwarming to see the Laos youth and the Singapore youths working together towards the same goal.”
Armed with this experience, the youths plan to go back to Laos this December, and to refurbish all 5 classrooms over the next few years.