Ohio University

Teaching English in Sop Chem

laundry hanging on a line in front of a house in a tropical location

ບ້ານ Sop Chem

Sop Chem is a small fishing and weaving village nestled amongst limestone mountains in the north of Laos. This hidden gem, resting along the Nam Ou River, consists of approximately 57 compassionate families who work hard to maintain their livelihood. A majority of the families spend their time farming in their rice paddies, raising livestock, working as laborers, weaving, fishing, laughing and spending time together as a community. Naturally, this subsistence lifestyle pushes many young people in the community to attend secondary school and study English in search of better paying jobs.

a group of kids waving

ອາສາສະຫມັກ GIVE: Volunteers

Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE) is a non-governmental organization working in asset-based-community development in Tanzania, Nepal, Thailand, and Sop Chem, Laos. The organization focuses on community-driven sustainable infrastructure projects and English education programs. GIVE first began working alongside the Sop Chem community in 2016, during which, it dug a freshwater well and began their English education program. Now, GIVE has helped the community to pipe water to each home, construct an addition to the primary school, construct a dormitory for local teachers, and create an English education summer program and a scholarship program.

three people crouching down in the grass

ໂຮງຮຽນພາສາອັງກິດ The English Education Program

The English education summer program started in 2016 under the guidance of Jacob Hill. The education program grew dramatically as the local primary school was rebuilt. During 2017, I worked alongside Jacob to develop the curriculum, plan and coordinate the program, working with primary and secondary students, and adult women in the community in bi-weekly night classes. My friend and mentor, Jacob, handed over the guidance of the program to me during the summer of 2018. 

little girl carrying notebooks and a backpack

ໂຮງຮຽນປະຖົມ Primary School

The primary school consists of our youngest, goofiest, and most energetic learners. Our youngest learners begin with mainly crafts, games, and song activities, before moving on to learning the alphabet, phonics, numbers, colors, and shapes. Our intermediate students begin to learn to structure a sentence and more complicated vocabulary as well as beginner’s reading skills. 

Volunteer and child reaching their hands out to one another in a classroom

ໂຮງຮຽນມັດທະຍົມ Secondary School

Our secondary students build their literacy skills while learning more complicated English grammar. The learnings of these students range from basic verbal communication skills and reading at 30-35 English words per minute to being nearly fluent in English and reading 50-65 English words per minute. Many of these students attend local middle and high schools through GIVE’s Students4Students scholarship, which is an international student-led fundraiser that provides a tiered scholarship for the students of Sop Chem to pursue higher education.

ຄວາມເມດຕາ Special Education

A highlight of GIVE’s English education program is the development of a special education program, which advocates for diverse learners in the community. The program mainly focuses on providing specialized and mainstreamed instruction for Thieb, a very special soul in the Sop Chem community. In addition to working to empower, accept, and celebrate Thieb, the program also monitors other students who show signs of needing special accommodations throughout their journey in school. 

ໄກເພື່ອນ Pen Pals

The Pen Pal Project began in the winter of 2017 under the passionate guidance of past volunteer and elementary school teacher, Tersa McCarty. Since its founding, the students of Sop Chem have sent letters, crafts, and videos back and forth with an elementary school in Indiana, creating little cross-cultural communicators around the globe!

Two women hug in the street

ໂຮງຮຽນແມ່ຍິງ Ladies Night

With the primary sources of income in Sop Chem being handicraft weaved by the remarkable women of Sop Chem, Ladies Nights, bi-weekly night classes, were implemented to empower local women with English vocabulary to sell their products, while learning business and soft skills to increase sales to tourists. 

woman writing on a handheld whiteboard

ບໍ່ມີສິ່ງເສດເຫລືອ Zero-Waste Initiative

In order to minimize our net-impact on the surrounding environment, a zero-waste policy was implemented in our education program. This lead to lesson plans being completed on laminated templates, lessons being taught using reusable and burnable material, and school resources being recycled or crafted from donations and excess volunteer supplies. For example, painting old plastic bottles to be used as pencil cups, or donated pants to be cut into chalkboard erasers. 

GIVE Volunteers: Laos (Video)

A video created by Justin Montage showcasing GIVE Volunteer's Laos Program. The video covers the entirety of the Laos excursions and highlights the English education program.

Ohio University Interview

An interview with Delany Murray, of Ohio University's Division of Student Affairs, highlighting my work in Laos, my role in the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program at OU, and my goals for student teaching.

Backdrop Magazine Interview

An interview with Jessica Devo of Backdrop Magazine, focusing on GIVE volunteers’ efforts to travel ethically and the work of the GIVE: Ohio University student organization.