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A girl student from Laos writing on a whiteboard at school while smiling at the camera. Her teacher supervises in the background while wearing a facemask.
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Learning against the odds

How Karyia is breaking the cycle of poverty for her family in Laos.

“With climate change, we lack rainwater during rainy seasons and droughts become more frequent. We have a poor rice production harvest, and we do not have enough food for family consumption. This is very challenging to keep on supporting our children’s education” says YaXiong, 53 years old, from PakOu district, Luang Prabang province.

In rural areas of Lao PDR, communities rely essentially on agricultural production and forest products when it comes to food and livelihoods. What the Lee family endures is a reflection of the additional economic pressure put on the most vulnerable households, not allowing children to access the growth opportunities they deserve.

As a result, the two elder daughters of the family, Pana, 15 years old, and Kang, 14 years old, dropped out of school after completing the 3rd grade of secondary school. This is a common reality among the ethnic communities of Pak Ou District, Luang Prabang province, where fewer than 70% of children transition from primary to lower-secondary school.*

The reality is even worse for girls, with only 65.8% of them being able to keep studying.

Defying generational poverty

A family of four from Laos photographed outside their house.

But against all the odds that destined her to the same dead-end, the youngest daughter Karyia, 13 years old, grade 3 student of secondary school, is breaking this cycle for the family, and continuing her studies.

In the second half of 2021, the British Embassy and World Vision partnered with the Ministry of Education and Sports to support boys and girls from Pak Ou District's transition from primary to secondary school. 120 vulnerable children in their first year of lower secondary school were selected to receive assistance for one year from the Funding Advancement for Secondary Transition (FAST) Project in Luang Prabang province.

"If I hadn’t received this support, I wouldn’t have had the chance to do my secondary education."

Throughout the academic year, World Vision supported each student with 1,350,000 KIP (around $100) to cover tuition fees, together with a kit composed of a blanket, school uniform, study materials, and hygiene items including reusable menstrual pads to help girls like Karyia stay in school.

“My dream is to become a medical staff so that I will be able to treat patients and pass on hygiene and sanitation knowledge to the children, adults, and communities in remote areas. I want the communities to have a better life without any disease,” says Karyia, 13 years old.

She continues, “If I hadn’t received this support, I wouldn’t have had the chance to do my secondary education. I certainly would have dropped out of school and helped out in the field as my two sisters do”.

A holistic approach

Two school girls from Laos sitting at a desk and reading a textbook

In addition, World Vision supported the community to overcome the challenges set by climate change, by providing poultries, goat, and vegetable seeds for doing home gardens to increase and diversify the sources of food for families, so that education can be put back in households’ budget priorities.

“With World Vision’s support, we have more food for family consumption and we can have enough income to support our children’s education,” says YaXiong, who sees the importance of learning for his daughter’s future.

With her dream in mind, Kariya is determined to pass the final examination. This is the first test for her and her family on their journey to overcome poverty and consider the future she wants to create for her and her community.

Long-term strategy

Group of schoolchildren from Loos standing in a line and smiling while looking into the camera.

We believe Lao children represent hope for the nation’s future and World Vision works along with the Government and Communities, ensuring the wellbeing of children, especially the rural children, through a development approach focused on education, health, child protection, economic growth and food security.

In 2013, we launched a three-year strategy focusing on supporting vulnerable children and their families. This new national strategy focused on contributing to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). More than 200,000 Lao children have benefited from programmes or policy improvements as a result of our work.

With your help, we can help more children stay in full-time education by tackling the root cause of generational poverty.

*Based on the results of a survey conducted with primary and secondary school students in World Vision Laos' Area Programmes

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