With most school pupils looking forward to a week of rest, six John Lyon Sixth Form students headed to South East Asia for a week of rewarding work in Laos.
Setting off from North West London on Friday 15th February, the students’ first stop was the Harrow International School in Bangkok, one of John Lyon’s sister schools within John Lyon’s Foundation. After a night in the boarding houses there it was time for another flight across the border to Laos, where the John Lyon boys would head to Ban Nong Jong village to help with work constructing a new dormitory for a local school.
Three of the John Lyon party, Yenuson Venderkoon, Niale Emmanuel and Christopher Lau wrote home about their Laotian adventures and experiences.
Yenuson – from Thailand to Laos:
Days 1 and 2 “The past couple of days have been good fun and very long. There has been a lot of travelling and a lot of walking as we went to places like Ayutthaya to visit the magnificent Buddhist temples and ruins. In addition, once we arrived at the Harrow International School in Bangkok, where we met the Bangkok students, we went on a river cruise and enjoyed some delicious food, seeing some beautiful sights along the river.
“On the second day, after a good night’s sleep, we left Harrow Bangkok to go to Laos. Once we got to the guest house in Luang Prahbang we went to visit the night market. Here there was a range of souvenirs to buy, such as jewellery made out of old bombs from the war, wonderful paintings, and variety of fresh food and drinks from the local area. We have been very busy from day one and have thoroughly enjoyed visiting Thailand and Laos, as well as getting to know the Bangkok students. Across the next couple of days, I look forward to all the fun and hard work we will face as we build the eco-dormitories.”
Niale and Christopher – working in Laos:
Day 3 “After a rough night’s sleep, we all went to the nearby cafe to eat breakfast opposite our guest house. Following breakfast, we jumped into a van for a ten-minute drive to the Mekong river. A scenic boat ride down the river led to an hour-long walk through thick forests and rice fields, with breathtaking views as we climbed higher. Finally, we found ourselves in the village where we would be staying. We were greeted by many excited children coming to give us a walk welcome. We were then shown the family we were going to stay with who were very polite and hospitable. We were shown around the village as well as the work site on which we would be working – a dorm room for the middle school students so they could go to school without having to travel every day. We began some work, such as digging soil and moving bricks, preparing for the next morning when a full day of work awaited us.
Day 4 “We woke bright and early to the sounds of cockerels crowing. After a filling breakfast served to us by our host, we headed to the work site again, this time to collaboratively make mud cement in a mud pit. Heading home for lunch break, we returned to the village to be welcomed with an aromatic scent from the kitchen. After lunch, We were then divided into groups to execute different tasks – brick laying, brick shaving and plastering – even the teachers got stuck in. In addition we had the opportunity to spend time with the local children – playing cards and football. After dinner, we strolled to a local Mong village to visit a Shaman to gain more insight into Mong religion and culture. The Shaman claimed she was 200 years old. Fatigued from all the work, we headed off to sleep, completing our second day in the village.
Day 5 “After another filling breakfast provided by our hosts, we had one more session to go before our work was complete. As usual, we were working in the blazing heat – our shirts drenched in sweat. After making it to the work site we continued with our jobs, either making mud bricks or building the wall of the hut. We made great progress, finishing one side of the hut and making a total of 47 mud bricks. At the end, we exerted our remaining energy to play badminton and volleyball with the kids at the school. Not to our surprise, we were thrashed in a game of volleyball against the locals. Coming back to the village covered in mud, we took a cold shower before meeting in the middle of the village to commemorate our visit to the village with a special ceremony. Following a filling meal, the local villagers tied many pieces of string to our wrists to wish us good luck for the future. After a long and tiring day, we went back to our houses to sleep there for one last night.”
Returning from the week-long adventure and the return to John Lyon life, Teacher of Politics Mr James Armstrong, who accompanied the students, said: “The boys have been exceptional and have done themselves, and the school, proud. In fact, our local guide said that this is the best school group he has ever worked with.”
The working week in Laos is part of a long-standing and regular relationship with the Harrow International Schools in Asia, part of John Lyon’s Foundation alongside John Lyon School and Harrow School.
Each year there is also an exchange trip which sees boys experience life in the other schools, attend lessons, meet students, experience the culture and visit various tourist sites.