What a year!
2017 started with Mari and me travelling to Laos in January to set up the new Learning Lab donated by the Kavli Trust. We spent two weeks setting it all up, and the results amazed us. The children really enjoyed the new learning apps and the village was thrilled with the modern set-up. During the first half of 2017, we continued to welcome amazing volunteers every month. Jens were one of these, and after his volunteer period, we invited him to join our organization. He now works with marketing and donations, focusing on Sweden. He will also be the project manager of our new sustainable project called Ecobricks. Later, Mathilde joined us as a legal and financial advisor, and both these two new resources took our organization to new hights. In September 2017, we were granted another substantial donation by the Kavli Trust, we were featured in two Norwegian newspapers and we received a lot of benefitial help. We have had many volunteers visiting us during the year, and we have built several local and international relationships through cooperations with organizations and businesses. We are now setting up a board to guide us through the new year. We have done amazing things online, without a dime spent on marketing. We are so proud of the fact that we are able to communicate our vision and mission without spending any costly resources on this.
So, what does the new year look like? We have many new plans, which you can read about in this report. We have a strong organization, and the new board will bring exciting resources to our mission in Laos. We will work further on our strategies for the future, but we are all agreeing that growth is a good thing, but that we need these start-up years to be stabile so that we can figure out what works best and really increase the quality of our offer to the children in Laos. Mathilde is sadly leaving her post as the legal and financial advisor of Aay’s Village. However, she has spread her knowledge to the team and with the new board members joining from January 2018, we feel ready for new challenges and opportunities. Thank you so much for volunteering with us, Mathilde!
We are motivated to embark on the second year of providing children in Laos with the tools they need to create the future they deserve. The road ahead includes hiring a new teacher and starting a recycling system in our village. We are also planning on expanding our board, and we have started a project with the local school to update their sanitary facilities. We are also thinking about buying our own house, as the local government are eager to grant us some land and a house could cost around 3-10 000 euros.
I want to give a humungous thank you to Mari, Eirik, Jens & Aay who work so hard every single day. Aay’s Village would not exist without your hard work and I hope you know what positive and real difference you make in the world!
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us this year. Let’s go 2018!
Goals and achievements 2017
We travelled to Laos in January 2017 to set up our brand-new Learning Lab, and this really kick-started our journey towards providing children with the tools they need to create the future they deserve. It’s been a year, and we are now looking through the goals we wrote up a year ago and reflect on our progress and improvement potential.
Goal 1: Set up Learning Lab in Aay's Village, Laos
It was quite easy to set up Learning Lab when we got the opportunity to go to Laos and set it up after instruction from the Kavli Trust and Alphabet King. Even though we are missing some pieces and some equipment were of poor quality, we all agree that this goal has been reached.
Goal 2: Build and educate Aay's Village team
We spent plenty of time getting everyone onto the Learning Lab and it was well received by everyone, including the locals and the students. It turned out to be very simple and everyone is well integrated into our new system now.
Goal 3: Register students
Registering students proved to be more difficult than we thought, as it was much more important and complicated than first assumed. The children who were not registered in the first place chose to look in from the outside while others were taught. It was not nice to not have the capacity to take in all the children who wanted to study at the Learning Lab, and we hope to reach out to these this year. We also want to create more specific routines regarding student registration, as we have seen some students have not shown for a couple of lessons without giving notice. As there is so much demand for Learning Lab, we wish to communicate that those who wish to join cannot have a lot of absence from our teaching. We wish to reach as many as motivated students as possible, but also use the registry to improve the way we motivate the students who have absence. This is something we need to work more with.
Goal 3: Follow up progress
Monitoring progress has been challenging as it is something the locals are not used to doing. Nevertheless, we have received volunteers who have helped us measure progress, as well as Aay Sinthala who has been following the studies daily, and has overall seen big progress with all the students. Somewhat surprisingly we have had to move some of the younger students over to the oldest group, and vice versa. The level of students differs a lot, which is clearly challenging in a classroom. Nevertheless, the Learning Lab gives us the opportunity to customize learning for each student's level.
Goal 4: Examine the impact of the project
We have examined each group and found specific impacts for each level. Let us know if you would like the full report.
Goal 5: Get 10 volunteers
We have had over 20 volunteers visiting us, and they have all been wonderful and so positive in their own way. They have respected our rules and ways of doing things, and they have helped us on our mission. The children and local community get to meet the world though our volunteers, and we love that we facilitate to cross-cultural conversations and learning.
Goal 6: Grow our online presence
Social media is our only form of marketing, and we are proud of the fact that we spend zero money on marketing, and still reach out to volunteers, donators and collaborators. In addition, we receive so many comments that people love to follow our journey through our online content. This will be a focal point in 2018 as well.
Goal 7: Take Learning Lab further 2018-2022
There is no doubt that we want to use Learning Lab in 2018. We see the success that has developed throughout 2017 in Laos, but we also see the improvement potential and are more motivated than ever to fine-tune routines and get things done better in 2018. We hope the new year will equally successful and we are ready to reach out to even more children in Laos. We see the potential, and we hope you do too. However, we have to be honest and acknowledge that our initial plans were too enthusiastic. This is what we wrote in 2016: “Between 2017-2022, we can reach over 800 children from 8-16 through school classes in the area, teachers at the local school, and local population; all enrolled in a year. We can now double if it turns out that 6 months is enough time to learn basis IT and English. We also want to look into the opportunity to expand the project and reach even more. Our evaluations will make it possible to look at the opportunity to reach out to more without compromising quality the training through Learning Lab”.
Reflection after 15 months in operation and 12 months with the Learning Lab:
After 8 months of Learning Lab we have tested the system in Laos and we see that it is extremely successful, especially for the youngest students. However, we see that school classes should be below 40 per class, and we also register that students need more education hours than initially assumed. Thus, 12-month courses are more sustainable education for the students. Our goal is not to have thousands of students in our organization - our goal is rather to actually educate each student and give them the opportunity to create a better future for themselves through education. It is our vision, and we have kept this. We see that the Learning Lab has a great potential. We want to run the project another year, and then potentially expand next year or in 2020. We may then potentially reach out to more villages and set up more Learning Labs based on the experience we have made two years with Learning Lab in Phonsawath. However, we will grow sustainably and not rush into things without being ready to face these challenges and opportunities. With that said, here is our plans for 2018:
Plans for 2018
Educate 120 new children
Contact the local school and learn how we can continue to contribute
Start and develop our board. Invite board member (legal and/or accounting skills)
Hire and establish routines for communication with a new teacher
Search for a team member who can focus on education
Establish better routines for the children’s education
Enhance the security of our house
Renovate our Learning Lab
Start the scholarship
Welcome 16 volunteers
Develop the cooperation
Reach 10 000 on Aay’s Village Instagram and 20 000 on Explorelaos Instagram, and increase website traffic with 10 %
Create more marketing material
Develop safety guide for potential situations
Save money for buying a house
Continue to develop relationships in Laos
One team member travels to Laos
vision and mission
Our vision is for the village to be a community that, instead of being restricted by limits, manages to sustainably facilitate their own possibilities. This includes offering a quality education, safe and well-paid jobs and self-sufficiency to their villagers.
Our mission is to give the village the possibility to create better opportunities for its children by offering English, IT and Awareness Education to children from 8-16 years old, and that this leads to a satisfactory future in terms of possibilities and resources. We will also contribute with community projects to sustainably use resources to increase tourism to the village.
Our guiding principles are to include people from all walks of life, treat everyone equally, consider our environmental footprint and always work from a local perspective. We want to be open-minded; our organization is not built on any religious or political agenda, but we work hard to respect everyone.
Read more here: https://www.aaysvillage.com/whatwedo
Our organization in 2018 will look as follows, with both local competence in Laos and an international team who will continue to show the world how they can join us in providing children in rural Laos with the tools they need to create the future they deserve.
Aay Sinthala – Local manager
Aay is the initiative behind our mission in Laos.
Local manager of volunteer activities
Åshild Aarø – Manager
Åshild is one of the founding mothers of the organization
and is also the leader of the board.
Economics and Accounting
Laws and regulations
Cooperations & Communication
Mari Abrahamsen – Volunteer Manager
Mari is one of the founding mothers of the organization.
Volunteer Point of Contact
Manager of volunteer teachers’ tasks and responsibilities
Eirik Langeland – Marketing Manager
Eirik is one of the founding fathers of the organization.
Marketing and communication
Social media and online projects
Website and updates
Jens Ingelstedt – Marketing and donations coordinator
Jens joined us as a volunteer in February 2017, and shortly after his visit to Laos we invited him into our organization.
Project manager EcoBricks
Managing eco volunteers
Donations and cooperations coordinator in Sweden
Read more about our team members here: https://www.aaysvillage.com/who-we-are
This fall we have been planning a more professional board for Aay’s Village as we jumped across the 1-year mark and grew rapidly in 2017. We want to continue doing good in the village, and we need a board to plan our strategies, communicate our cause to the business world, and help us with big and small decisions.
Strategically establish goals and plans for the organization
Ensure sustainable and proactive practices
The Board of Aay’s Village is a supporting resource to the founders and organization of Aay’s Village, and should always make sure that their work is based on the organization’s vision and mission. The Board shall be kept oriented of operations and economy to ensure proactive control through quarterly meetings and reports.
Decide yearly budgets
Organize strategies and plans
Manage all big operations
Give members information
Write Board minutes from the board meetings
Promote Aay’s Village and work towards funding and cooperation
We invited Rose to join our board starting January 2018 due to her strong strategic thinking, quality market analysis and communications experience. Åshild has previously reported directly to Rose and enjoyed the cooperation immensely.
We invited Anders to join our board starting January 2018 due to his strong commercial sense, good network and possibility to secure future funding. Åshild has also previously reported directly to Anders and was impressed by his ability to take on huge workloads and be efficient and proactive.
Åshild Aarø is the leader of the board, but this may change over time.
The Kavli Trust
The Kavli Trust (Kavlifondet) is our biggest cooperation partner. They have donated substantially to our organization twice since our start-up in 2016. They have connected us with the Alphabet King and provided us with the resources to set up our own digital learning lab in the village. Support from the trust made it possible, for example, to buy in tablets and educational apps for the centre, which provides daily lessons for 120 children. Kavi Trust website on the cooperation with Aay's Village
Hoam Jai is a non-profit organization in Vientiane in Laos. They work towards giving possibilities to exceptional human beings from rural Laos. They sent Aay Sinthala to study in Thailand and Cambodia, and frequently sends him on team events and courses. In 2018, Hoam Jai will send 4 volunteers to our village to update the local schools’ toilets and paint our project house.
Openmind Projects is the organization which Åshild and Mari joined in 2015 in North of Thailand for a month. Whilst volunteering, they met Aay here. We highly appreciate the possibility Openmind Projects gave us to meet and they also promote Laos for potential volunteers.
Cooperating Volunteers is a business from Spain promoting various volunteer programs to Spanish volunteers. They promote us as their Laos program, and we are welcoming our first volunteer in this cooperation in January 2018.
Dahani Foundations’ mission is to provide higher education to students from South-East Asia who do not have the resources to finance and facilitate for this on their own. We have a newly started Scholarship which we will give to our most hardworking student in 2018, and the Dahani Foundation and Aay’s Village are now planning how we can link our programs.
We do not have a cooperation with Childsafe Allience, however we follow their ethical guidelines for dealing with rural children in South-East Asia and we appreciate any tips and recommendations from this organization which places the children’s security first.Private donators
We have been extremely lucky to have received substantial donations from two families in Bergen, and we wanted to show our appreciation for these as well. We truly hope to continue the cooperation with these donators in the next year as well. However, we would like to emphasize that every donation – both big and small helps us tremendously, and we are truly thankful for all your contributions.
We will look into the possibility of starting an EcoBrick projekt during early 2018. The goal is to show locals different useful ways to make use of their plastic waste, for example by making EcoBricks by packing bottles full of plastic using a bamboo stick. Examples of how to make EcoBricks and what else to do with plastic waste:
When we save, segregate and pack plastics into bottles, we can make building blocks that can be reused over and over again. Together we can build green spaces that enrich our community and the biosphere. Together we can return to harmony with the cycles of life. An Ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed solid with non-biological waste to make a re-useable building block. Best of all, you don’t need any fancy machines, special skills, engineers or even politicians to get started. Ecobricks sequester CO2, keep plastic out of the biosphere and out of the industrial recycling system. Ecobricking unites communities and raises ecological consciousness. Best of it all, Ecobricking lets you take personal responsibility for your plastic. After lots of research and experiments we’ve found Ecobricks to be the deepest solution for our own plastic.
We will put up an ad on WorkAway looking for long term volunteers that are willing to come and lead Ecobricks. In return, the idea is that they will not have to pay for food and volunteering fee. If we can get a house for this project, the plan is to construct walls and a door for the lower part of the house so that the walls will be of plastic bottles+ cement on the lower level and wood on the upper. By doing this we could show Aay, the children, the mayor, teachers, and all else that there is a use for the material they now throw in the jungle and burn. Except walls the plan is to make the interior and exterior of the house full of other inventions that can be made using waste plastic. For example, lamps such as this:
The focus should be to strive to include the children in the EcoBrick project as well, and incorporate it into the English teaching. They are the new generation and it’s important that we can show them another way than burning the plastic. Equally important is to make the project a showroom to show the mayor, the teachers and other adults the possibilities. If a wooden house costs 5000 euros today to build a house build with Ecobricks might only be half the price. It is therefore an opportunity for some locals to start constructing using this material.
Read more here: http://www.ecobricks.org/
This project is a big part of the sustainability focus we want to have in our organization. We want to focus on protecting the environment and educating locals and visitors on how to recycle in a country that doesn’t recycle enough yet.
Expanding environmental focus
We would like to find a place for the eco side of our organization, and the neighbor house in the village is for rent/sale. We are looking into potentially saving up and buying a place, as we want to renovate, secure and fix up something we own rather than rent.
This house could be used to store plastic waste underneath and the upstairs can be used for accommodation for eco volunteers.
Our donation request to Kavli Trust included a scholarship to our most hard-working student. We also want to start an Aay's Scholarship, where the student with the greatest progress will receive a prize as well as a donation (We have suggested 10,000 NOK in our budget for donation in 2018). This money price will be dedicated to further studies and we will follow up the student and help as well as we can to enable the student to take a higher education. If we have to make sure that we provide scholarship to the right student, and it is extremely important that we follow up progress: here is the motivation, dedication and curiosity as we wish to premiere with a scholarship.
This scholarship needs to be planned throughout 2018 and we also need to be sure that we choose the correct student. We are teaming up with the Dahani Foundation to make sure that we give the student the best way into higher education through this scholarship.
One of our projects of 2018 will be to develop our board and its function towards our vision and mission. We’re starting off the year with the first meeting, and will hopefully create strategies for how it can best offer help to the organization on various challenges.
We have decided to hire an additional teacher so that Aay can get some help with educating our 120 children. However, this is a high-risk project for us as we need someone who can communicate with us and follow through our plans. Especially with developing our routines, following each students’ learning and research their development and continuously improve our offer to the children. We will have a long-time volunteer joining us in January and hopefully this can allow us to develop routines for communication with the new teacher as well.
It is extremely difficult to communicate across continents with different languages, cultures and ways of life. We are beyond grateful for our volunteers who often bring our plans and ideas into life in Laos. However, we will need to focus on making the travel to Laos to actually manage the development of our educational offer. Our difficulties here are that a plane ticket from Scandinavia to Laos is expensive and unsustainable. In addition, our team works on a 100 % volunteer basis, which means that all have full time jobs in addition to their position on Aay’s team. Focus, planning and hopefully the possibility to cover costs of travel could allow us to make sure that someone from the organization is traveling to Laos to bring plans and ideas into life at least once or twice a year.
We have also had some internal discussions on how to communicate best within the organization. We will try to move our work over to Asana, which is an online project platform.
Thank you for taking the interest in our organization and plans!
Aay, Mari, Jens, Eirik & Åshild