We are Dilara, Nicole and Patricia and we are the three new volunteers at the LGTC. Right after we got the exciting news about being part of “The Laos Experience”, we received an invitation from BHS Corrugated. The company kindly invited us to their summer party. In the context of a casual get- together, we would have the exceptional possibility to meet the Engel family. We would also meet project founders and BHS directors as well as befriended project benefactors. Other than that, we would also make first contact with some of the Lao teachers and two students from the LGTC – which is an extraordinary opportunity no other team before ever had. There was no doubt we would definitely join this event.
Our two-day-trip started in the morning of 22 July 2018, when we drove from Karlsruhe to Weiherhammer (Bavaria), which is located close to the border to the Czech Republic, with our professor Dr. Isabel Martin. After a four-hour-drive and a lot of questions and answers, we arrived at “Hotel Witt”, which is only a 5-minute-walk away from BHS. As the summer party itself would start around 6 p.m., Johannes Zeck picked us up a few minutes earlier and guided us to a futuristic company building.
The BHS head office was completed in 2017 and is located directly next to the pond that gave the village its name, “Weiherhammer” (“Weiher” meaning “pond”). As we would find out the next day, not only the facade looks highly modern, it is also the company’s working concept that reflects this modernity. Besides multiple open-working spaces, employees have access to a fitness area and two restaurants, of which one is open to public.
Once we had entered the building and climbed the stairs to one of the aforementioned restaurants, a large balcony opened up to us. There Gerlinde Engel, Christian Engel, Lars Engel, and their families and friends welcomed us. Shortly after our arrival, an group of people could be seen approaching from the balcony. They smiled and waved to Prof. Martin and Johannes, so we instantly knew: These people must be the Lao delegation!
After having introduced ourselves to each other and having drunk to a successful time in Laos, the evening was about to start. A buffet with plenty of delicacies waited for all of us and provided us with food all night long. From different salads and other delicious appetizers to a variety of meat and side dishes, the choice was large. We volunteers shared a table together with the Lao teachers and students. After a couple of hours filled with heaps of tasty food and interesting talks about anything and everything, everybody got tired. So, we decided to make our way back to the hotel. The Lao accompanied us with their bikes and went back to their apartment, too.
The next morning began early but with a well-balanced and substantial breakfast in the hotel. We had a big day ahead of us, as Johannes wanted to show us the whole company including the assembly halls. We met at 8 a.m. in the lobby and started our tour right away. Its starting point was the main building, which we already partially knew from the day before. Johannes led us through the head office and explained the purpose of the different spaces and rooms presented to us. We were astonished at how innovative everything seemed. Getting to know such a company was a whole new experience for us future teachers, who will most likely work in an environment that differs greatly from such a firm.
After the main building, Johannes showed us the vocational training area. It offers the trainees of BHS a wide range of training potential like experienced trainers and spatial, technical, and administrative conditions in top quality. Other than that, Johannes told us about the close cooperation between BHS and the UeBZO, which is the center of competences for manufacturing technology in eastern Bavaria. The UeBZO is a reliable and competent vocational training partner and ensures BHS a constant improvement in their vocational training. Thus, the students receive an excellent education and an employment with various future possibilities. Having this first impression of the BHS corporate philosophy and its added value for vocational students helps us to better understand the aspirations of the work in Laos, especially at the LGTC.
Following the BHS tour with Johannes, we launched the first meeting with Prof. Martin, Johannes, and the LGTC English teachers Ms Moukdala Keomixai and Mr Saythong Insarn. We talked about the upcoming semester and the collaboration between BHS, the LGTC, and us volunteers. The meeting was very productive and helpful for us. On the one hand, we were able to get an insight into the exchange between the teachers, Prof. Martin, and Johannes about the new plans and aspirations, which enabled us to further understand our function, responsibilities, and work at the LGTC. We also became aware of the challenges and difficulties we will probably face. On the other hand, Prof. Martin and Johannes were able to agree on several changes and improvements with the English teachers in order to further stabilize the cooperative work at the LGTC.
After our lunch at the BHS canteen, we had another meeting with the English teachers Ms Mouk and Mr Saythong only. Its main intention was to get to know each other better. So, us volunteers presented ourselves by showing previously prepared powerpoint-presentations which included information about our family, friends, hometown, and hobbies. Ms Mouk and Mr Saythong’s presentation was about the LGTC. As they showed us many pictures of the different premises on-site, it gave us interesting first impressions of what life on campus and in Laos would actually look like.
We finished our entertaining and informative second day at BHS around 4 p.m. and headed home. We all sat in the car with smiles on our faces and great excitement about our upcoming adventure in Laos – and this time around we had even more animated questions and got ever more animated answers.
Thank you very much to BHS Corrugated for two exceptional days in Weiherhammer. They were filled with delicious food, friendly acquaintances, interesting conversations, and informative meetings. Your invitation enabled us to get to know and to understand what is behind the “Angels for children” foundation. It made us even more enthusiastic about our upcoming stay in Laos. We cannot wait any longer to make our own “Laos experience” with Ms Mouk, Mr Saythong, and the other English faculty members at the LGTC in Vientiane – but the wait will be short now, as we are leaving tomorrow!
Text by N. Wiesa & P. Hopp
Photos by P. Hopp, D. Erdogan & S. Insarn