Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Help a school in Laos

I am starting a campaign to help a small school in Laos near the house that Aon and I are building in Paksong. It is also the school where Bia attends.

This is a two-room schoolhouse, but as you can see it is overcrowded and has no electricity or running water.  The school is very cold and drafty in the winter and very hot in the summer. The desks are old and decrepit and the benches the children have to sit on are dilapidated and rickety.

If students need to go to the bathroom, they have to go outside the school because there is no bathroom. The students  go either behind the school or in one of the rice paddies that surround the school.

There are just two teachers and it is obvious, at least from this photograph, that the two teachers have their work cut out for them, especially what they have or don’t have to teach with. In Bia’s classroom, the children range in age from  five years old to around six or seven. The other classroom is for older students.

I visited the school one morning this past January–Jeremy Aaron and I walked Bia to school. As a teacher myself, my heart went out to the two teachers who teach at this school.

I would like to start a campaign called “Adopt-a-School” where we can help less fortunate school children around the world who lack a proper school to attend or such things as books and other school needs. Maybe a school can “adopt” another school and have fundraisers to raise money for these schools or instead of monetary donations send pencils, erasers, notebooks, and other school supplies. Teachers can come up with lesson plans to teach students about these countries and have students come up with special projects.

People always talk about how the world has become more of a global community and that it takes a village for this or that. Well, it also takes a school and lots of them. Of course, that goes without saying when it comes to really investing in our future with our schools and teaching our children in them.

Some of the children cannot even afford pencils or paper.

Bia hard at work on one of his lessons.

What can we do? What can you do?


  1. Jeffrey,

    What did you have in mind to do first?

    My wife and I would like to see what we could do for you from here in San Diego.

    I might be coming back to Laos this summer or possibly sooner….


    • Jon,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I am sending a little money this week because the school is having some ceremony to raise money–kind of what a Buddhist temple will do when it needs a new building. I went to this particular school with Bia and Jeremy Aaron one morning back in January, and as a teacher myself, my heart really went out to the two teachers who teach at this particular school and how hard it must be for them.

      At this point, I am also tossing around a few ideas about this “Adopt-a-School” idea I came up with yesterday.

      Thanks again for stopping by and staying in touch.

  2. Hi Prof,

    I wonder how I could join with you. Here I have a group of volunteer and I think we can raise the money.

    So you mean we send money or what? How much are you expecting and for how long?

    • Patrick,

      Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and comments. That’s great that there are some volunteers willing to help out. I am talking to my wife about this and this week, there is going to be some ceremony to raise money for this small school. I will post more information when I get it. I know that any kind of donations would be greatly appreciated besides monetary ones.

      I would really like to take this the next level with my “Adopt-a-School” campaign.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I will keep you posted on the latest developments.

  3. Jeffery,

    It just so happens that I am doing exactly the same thing here in Japan. A friend and I are helping out schools in Uganda. It started with a number of schools but to make better use of our resources we now help just one school.

    Last year we managed to fundraise and organise the construction of a new classroom! I wish you all the best in this endeavour! I’ll support where I can! ^_^

    • Jingtian,

      Thanks for your comments. That’s wonderful that you and your friend are doing the same thing.

      How did you go about starting a fundraiser? I worry that some people may not believe me–even with the photos I have posted here–and may not want to contribute. Any suggestions or ideas?

  4. Jeffrey,
    I was helping raising money for an elementary school in Ponthong and it’s still not completed, I’ve not gotten anymore feedback since beginning of 2009. I raised money through selling egg rolls, and people didn’t question since they didn’t have to give money for free.

    It’s hard for people to believe since communication is slow and the accountability is totally different from here, in Laos it is based on trust, which doesn’t fly here in the US. I actually went to visit the school in Nov. 2008, but didn’t get to meet the people involved even though I made some arrangement prior to going, I guess they were too busy to meet up with me. I did get to meet por Jai banh (elder of the community) and it was my dad that went looking for him, we had a nice visit at his house, it’s a Lao custom to welcome all guests. Personally, if I had to do it again, I would personally build the school myself, instead of giving money. Here is the link to the school posts at my blog.

  5. Hi Prof.,

    Here I already had a few hundreds of notebooks, pencils, and school-stuffs which are left from our previous programs. And I can send them to your address at anytime.

    Please kindly let us know what else we can do for the children over there. For example: money to built a restroom, blackboard…

    • Hi Patrick,

      That’s wonderful, Patrick! Thank you so much. The school and the children appreciate what you and others are doing very much.

      I sent you an email about where to send the school supplies.

      I’ll be in touch again soon. Thank you so much again, Patrick.

  6. Hello Jeffery,

    We had a big problem with trust as well.

    However, we managed to raise the approximate 500,000 Japanese yen, which I think is about 5000 US dollars, that was needed to build the classroom.

    We started totally from scratch and created an organisation in Karatsu city, Saga prefecture, Japan. The group started off with 6 people and was called “Rainbow”. We couldn’t claim to be a “charity” because we would have to go through lots of troublesome bureaucratic processes.

    We made a website so that our ideas and goals were easily accessible by anyone.

    The majority of us in Rainbow were teachers so rather than depend on the foreigners living in Japan to raise money, we wanted to show the Japanese what the situation is like in Gitenderi and get them to raise money voluntarily.

    As teachers in Japan we had a slight bonus in terms of trust. Our position gave us a slight edge. However, our biggest problem was culture and mentality. Japanese don’t usually give to charity. On the whole, the Japanese government does it for them. (And they do a good job at that!) But the people are rarely notified about the government’s charitable acts. And thus they are reluctant to part with their money, particularly if they cannot see the result.

    Since Karatsu is a relatively small city we tried to overcome the trust and mentality problem by getting ourselves on LOCAL Karatsu television. That helped us quite a bit.

    Wow, this has become quite a big reply. Sorry, but there is still a bit more to go!

    All of the above was to deal with trust and mentality. We accumulated money via several fundraisers.

    The Rainbow Run – kind of a failure since not many Japanese participated (more non Japanese were there than Japanese!)

    African Dance Event – One of our friends was an African dancer! She taught a class and peformed.

    Quiz Night – A simple pub quiz mainly attended by non Japanese.

    The Rainbow Walk – Somewhat of a SUCCESS! A simple walk around a nice park. We got several students interested as well as some of their parents, got lots of elderly who were part of a walking group and of course several non Japanese. The walk was recorded on TV!

    In the end, the president of Rainbow also made a small video of the actual construction of the classroom in Gitenderi and sent it back to Karatsu for it to be aired on TV. Thus we hope that all the people that helped us can see what they helped accomplish.

    Phew…it is a shame that I cannot continue helping Rainbow since I will be leaving the country soon!

  7. Jingtian,

    Thanks so much for your comments and the wonderful work you have done helping out a school in Africa. I appreciate your comments and admire the work you have done helping out schools.

    I have also created a website: It Takes A School; my plan is to get schools, teachers and students as well as others helping out other schools around the world. Just have to wait and see what happens.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

    You might also be interested in following and subscribing to my other blog Awake and Smelling the Coffee.

  8. Hi Jeffery,

    This is Kelly, from over at Pim’s Life in Laos. I am in the process of applying for 501c3 status to start an Art/Language program here in Vientiane. S L O W going as it’s a 100% grassroots DIY effort ..but maybe somehow we could network.

    Are you still working on this idea? Maybe I could do a Q & A with you and post on our blog? I know it’s a long shot but does the school do anything with either Art or English?

    Khap jai der!

  9. Jeffery, looking at these pictures made my heart just sink. Sayjailao Foundation is doing a fundraiser to help schools in Laos ourselves. Please visit us at to learn more about us. We will definitely be following your blog and will help in any way we can. Keep up a the great work and I hope nothing but the best for you.

    Lucy Sanouvong
    (Daughter of the founder of Sayjailao)

  10. If you don’t mind, we would like to use your images on our website, and we will refer people to your blog so they can help your cause too. Thank you so much in advance, we will definitely give you credit on your images on our site.

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