Reflections on an Outbound Project in Laos

written by Katie Neginskiy, Manager of Vocational and English Language Training at Heartland Alliance

I have just returned from my very valuable time in Savannakhet, Laos with Bounmy at Laos3her organization, New World Training Institute. We had three main points of focus. First, I spent time teaching the English classes and demonstrating techniques for the teachers. This was useful for both students and teachers because the teachers at the school are not native English speakers and they learned English from non-native speakers, so pronunciation is a challenge. We also created a program plan for her English classes and incorporated a “pen pal” program where her students will be exchanging projects regarding Lao life and culture with my students who will return projects to Bounmy’s students regarding US life and culture.

Second, I wanted to learn about the structure of vocational programming at different organizations in Laos, all of which focus on women, because I am currently trying to build similar programming at my organization in Chicago, for refugee women. Third, we spent time writing a grant application that she will submit in February, building a budget, and outlining reporting mechanisms to help Bounmy secure American funding. The entire project was useful for both me and Bounmy, but I think she most needed my help with honing her grant writing and budget making skills. Her programming is already impressive, but she needs more money to expand her offerings, and therefore needs additional funding. Her programming is a great pitch for funders, but she needed help designing outcomes, metrics, and reporting mechanisms for American grants. I so appreciate the gift of this time in Laos, to have been able to lend my experience to a valuable project in Savannakhet and also learn so much that I could bring back and use at my own organization, Refugee and Immigrant Community Services. It truly was an invaluable time.