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The more one has the more one wants”  This could be viewed as a statement around materialism or as displayed in a school it could apply equally to education.

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The first blog in this series ‘Eliminating Poverty – One Day at a Time’ was full of hope to be setting off to China only to be thwarted by the Ministry of Security.  Tajikistan Ministry of Security held a similar view as to the danger of allowing me to stay and so finally on to the Ministry of Security in Laos that initially was stern and uncompromising but after 10 visits over 2 months mellowed, greeted me with a resigned smile and went out of their way to help over the extensions of my visa.

So this is my last blog in this series.  Did I find poverty?  Did I help in any way?

Most of the people did not have many material items and lived simply, with limited access to medical care and education (often for economic reasons) and faced daily corruption but I did not see any one obviously hungry. The worst poverty came from lack of opportunity particularly for the young people.

In Tajikistan/Afghanistan I worked with an organisation that developed cross-boarder trade and delivered entrepreneur training to young people to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities.   The course was a great success and it was planned to incorporate it into the local university but the reality for the participants – particularly the Afghan women – is that they may have the knowledge and the skill but the political situation is such that they are unlikely to be able to develop their ideas in the near future.  Eventually it was the political and security situation that terminated the project which brought me home and the local organisation to carry on against the odds.

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Next stop Laos where there are also limited opportunities and young people have difficulty in reaching their potential, not only because it is the least developed Asian country which is exasperated by a huge unexploded ordinance (UXO) problem but also because of limited education and discrimination against ethnic minorities.

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Beautiful, remote and covered in UXO – a difficult environment to build a future

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A common sight – A 6 year old girl unable to go to school as she cares for her 2 month old brother whilst her parents work in the rice fields.

A Lao teenager I met on my first day working for Lone Buffalo (LB) said to me ‘English is my future’.  And this is what LB recognises by:

teaching young people English through free, quality education, sport and life skills to provide improved opportunities for individuals and their communities

LB is an education centre that teaches young people English from beginners to higher intermediate.  Students are predominately from the H’mong ethnic group and nine of its first group of students went on to university last year, a major step in enabling them to reach their full potential.  LB has achieved a great deal and I sincerely hope that the work I undertook around strategic development and a volunteer programme enables them to move up to the next organisational level and to help even more young people to a brighter future.

Its been a fascinating 6 months.  The more one has the more one wants – it could elude to materialism, education or even just a wonderful opportunity to get beneath the surface of a country and help in a small way.

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