Despite his full schedule as one of the two managing directors of BHS Corrugated, Lars Engel (board member of AfC and brother of Christian Engel) visited Laos for two days during a business trip to Asia. The foundation staff and the (still complete) Team III were highly honoured by this opportunity and had prepared a diverse programme.
Lars Engel, who arrived on the evening of 5 December and had not visited Laos for two years, found himself happily surprised by the development of the AfC schools, the “Teaching English in Laos” project, and the Recruitment and Training Programme of BHS Corrugated at the Lao-German Technical College.
During his full-day schedule, with AfC project leader Johannes Zeck, he visited the LGTC in the morning of 6 December and met the Deputy Director Mr Khamsavay Gnommilavong (the director Mr Somlith Virivong was on a two-week training mission in Houphan province at this time) and Mr Saythong Insarn, the coordinator of our cooperation, as well as the with heads of the six vocational sections and the administration. Together with Mr. Khamsavay and Mr. Saythong a tour was made in all sections of the LGTC, where Lars Engel also met the new BHS classes which started their training at the end of September.
Despite the heat of 30 degrees in Laos, Christmas feelings arose when both classes handed over BHS Christmas cards, signed by every apprentice, to Lars Engel, together with a red-and-white flower bouquet. During his visit in the mechanical section a BHS Corrugated banner was unveiled by the head of the section, Mr. Khamseng, to inaugurate the new tool and equipment cabinets of the company in the section, which is to logistically support the training courses.
After this tour in all the sections, the group also met Lena Wink, our German teacher of English, at the LGTC (unfortunately our other teacher, Denise Burkhardt, could not be present as she had to extend her visa in the morning), who rolled out her work with the LGTC English teachers and trainers, her lessons with the BHS apprentices, and the English “Activities”, such as the two new “Conversation Clubs” for teachers and students.
Following the visit at the LGTC, Lars Engel and Johannes Zeck drove to Sikeud, to have lunch with Lars Engel’s aunt and chairwoman of AfC, Madame Gerlinde Engel. She had prepared amongst other things her world-famous cucumber salad – yummy as always!
The programme continued in the afternoon by visiting the three AfC schools, meeting the volunteers of Team III, the Lao teachers, and also by participating in the new “Conversation Club” of Anika and David, with more than 25 pupils from the secondary school. Lars Engel was positively impressed by the development of the schools and the English spoken at the schools, both by the teachers (and not only the English teachers) and the pupils.
After a quick coffee break in the villa of Team III, the whole team and Lars Engel drove to the Mercure Hotel in Vientiane, for the annual AfC staff Christmas dinner. This was attended by the directors of the three AfC schools and their spouses, Mr Khamsing and Mrs Souksada Nanthavongdoungsy, Mrs Bouangeun “Linda” Hanthavong, Mr Sai and his wife, and Madame Gerlinde Engel. Although Christmas is of course not celebrated in Buddhist Laos, Lars Engel took over the role of Santa Claus and handed over Christmas cards to the AfC staff and his aunt Gerlinde Engel, after which ceremony the delicious buffet was opened.
Since Thorsten and Pauline were to leave on 8 December, the joint dinner was also the last opportunity to take a picture with all volunteers of Team III (only without Julia and Juliana from Sunshine School) together with the foundation staff – and the festively decorated Mercure Hotel was the best location to do so!
After taking a lot of group photos it was time to say “good-bye”, and then the team brought Lars Engel back to his hotel in Vientiane, since he had to leave early in the morning for his next stop in Asia.
Team III appreciated his visit very much, and the project leaders are looking forward to his next visit – maybe in the spring, when he can meet up with Team IV?
Text & Photos by J. Zeck