Fire - The Response

A little over a week ago, a fire swept through the compound of our Lao neighbours. 9 families lost their homes, some people left only with the clothes they were wearing. The compound is for the teachers (and their families) of a nearby college, and about 50 people in total live there.

Lao teachers don't earn much money and as their neighbours, I thought we should do something to help. I set up an online donation site and reached out to the falang community for help.

The response was awesome. 

People donated piles of clothes for kids aged 2-14 years, plus men's and women's clothes, and shoes. There were also a heap of sheets, towels and quilts, some kitchen goods, and various toys including Duplo and a wooden play kitchen.

We raised $US400 online from local and overseas supporters, and another 3,650,000 kip in cash from friends, the Vientiane International School (VIS) community, and the School for Gifted and Ethnic Students. Bringing it up to a total of 6,900,000 kip. Impressive!

I wanted to spend that money on new bedding, and if possible, rice cookers and some kitchenware. So, I roped in my friend Vanh to act as translator and off we went to Khua Din Market.

Khua Din is the local's market behind the bus terminal on Khouvieng and across the road from the more well known Talat Sao (see map below). It's a rabbit warren of a place and one that I will definitely be returning to explore on another occasion. I had been thinking of going to the Chinese markets to buy things but Vanh suggested Khua Din and I'm glad she did. 

Around the outskirts of the market are wholesalers who source goods directly from suppliers in Thailand, China and Vietnam and sell them in bulk. And this is where we headed for bedding supplies.

There followed a long discussion on the type of bedding we should buy - bamboo mats with quilts, padded matting, thin, folding cotton mattresses, sheets or no sheets; I hadn't realised there would be so many choices.

These thin bamboo mats are a common, all purpose item in Lao homes. They serve as beds, flooring, seating, a place to serve food, and are generally a clean cover over a cold or dirt floor.

These thin bamboo mats are a common, all purpose item in Lao homes. They serve as beds, flooring, seating, a place to serve food, and are generally a clean cover over a cold or dirt floor.

Bamboo mats also fold out so they can fit a whole sleeping family, and are easily packed away when not in use. 

Bamboo mats also fold out so they can fit a whole sleeping family, and are easily packed away when not in use. 

These are padded bamboo mats will give a more comfortable sleep but only fit a single person

These are padded bamboo mats will give a more comfortable sleep but only fit a single person

Soft quilts and or blankets are necessary with the bamboo mats to either sleep over or under.

Soft quilts and or blankets are necessary with the bamboo mats to either sleep over or under.

So, this is what 6,900,000 kip gets you. And an extra big thanks to Vanh for counting it all out when we finally tallied the bill at the end. (Laotians are pretty adept at counting money; unsurprising, perhaps, when a bill tallies in the millions).

18 x bamboo mats
18 x Toto quilts
40 pillows with bright, flowery cases
20 mosquito nets with colourful pictures on them
30 bath towels

I decided to buy enough bedding for the whole compound. Anyway, they would divide it up as they saw fit. There was so much stuff, it wouldn't fit in the car. So the nice lady at the bedding stall, when Vanh told her that we were giving it all away, packed it into a tuktuk and delivered it to my house.

I still had almost 2 million left so we went across the narrow lane to the household supplies and bought:

8 x rice cookers (I figured they likely cooked together so could share these)
50 large porcelain bowls
100 small bowls
100 small cups
72 glasses (Laotians typically drink coffee in these glasses)
100 multipurpose metal spoons

Done!

That afternoon, I borrowed a friend's car and two very full cars made two trips to move all the stuff. It was baking hot and humid with storm clouds rolling in while we went back and forth trying to cram in as much stuff as possible. Luckily we didn't have far to go.

And every bit of that effort was resoundingly worth it. There were some very happy and grateful people. I'm so glad to have helped make this happen.

Handing over the donations and supplies to our neighbours with the head of the compound.

Handing over the donations and supplies to our neighbours with the head of the compound.

Khua Din market is behind the bus terminal on Khouvieng Road. The parking entrance is around the corner on Nongbone Road, and the bedding wholesalers are along the same lane (nearest the parking lot).