A fresh start (Isabel Martin)
In 2017, we started a pilot-project with the Sunshine School in Vientiane with two volunteers from Team III, Ms Julia Kessner and Ms Juliana Kase. Sunshine School welcomes volunteers from all parts of the world and cares very well for them, as you can read in our volunteers’ report on their internship of 2017/2018.
Our 5-year cooperation with the Angels-for Children Foundation (AfC), which began in 2015 and first took us – the University of Education Karlsruhe – to Laos, ended in the summer of 2020. This is why we reactivated our connection with the Sunshine School and established a more official cooperation this time by signing a MoD (Memorandum of Discussion), as a first step towards an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding), which is to follow next year and would mean a long-term cooperation project. Here you can find our new blog page on this cooperation partner.
AfC generously funded the internships of 10 teams (Team I – to Team X) between 2015 and 2020. Starting with Team XI, we needed to find new ways of funding to continue our cooperation with schools and colleges. (In 2018, we already established a university cooperation with Savannakhet University via Erasmus+, and we won another continuation grant for 2020 – 2023.) This is the new arrangement: The German side offers internship and travel grants via PROMOS, and some of the volunteers were also successful with their applications for another stipend of the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, “German Academic Exchange Service”) for students widening their teaching skills and furthering their Global Citizenship education by doing internships abroad. The Lao side offers free accommodation, transport, and lunches, apart from general support with visa and all other organizational matters.
We now have 3 new volunteers from our new Team XI who signed up to work in the new cooperation project with the Sunshine School: Ms Leona Kemmer and Ms Ann-Sophie Brunold are planning to go in the spring/summer of 2021, and Ms Eleanor Wheeler would like to divide her 20-week internship between the Lao-German Technical College (LGTC) and the Sunshine School during the winter term of 2020/21. We very much hope she will be granted the necessary “Expert” status and given a viable visa to be allowed to enter Laos so she can fly out at the end of the month, together with Ms Charlotte O’Dell, who hopes to start work at the Vocational Education Development Institute (VEDI) at the same time. (No doubt they will tell you themselves in a later post about the ups and downs they experienced over these past nerve-wracking months of trying, waiting, and re-trying in these uncertain Corona-times.)
The following colleagues and partners supported us in this process, and our heartfelt thanks go out to you:
– Ms Julia Friedl and Ms Simone Brandt, my colleagues at the International Office of the University of Education Karlsruhe, and our President Mr Klaus Peter Rippe,
– “Didi” (“sister”) Gaorii, aka Cathy Lee, the Headmistress of Sunshine School,
– Mr Saythong Insarn, our first tandem-teacher at the LGTC and now employed by the Vocational Education Department of the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), and Mr Somlith Virivong, his superior and my first contact, “supervisor”, interpreter, and partner in Laos, formerly President of the LGTC and now Head of the Vocational Department of the MoEs,
– His Excellency the Lao Ambassador to Germany, Mr Phomma Boudthavong, and his Berlin staff, who honoured us with their visit to our 6th Lao-German Friendship Feast on 10 July 2020.
Sunshine School (Didi Gaorii)
“Sunshine School” (or “Souliya School” as it is known in Lao) is a Lao school situated in the heart of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. The school was established in 1996 and is officially licensed and registered with the Lao government. In 2019-2020 we had roughly 390 students ranging from nursery level to the end of middle school.
The school is a non-profit, non-denominational institution dedicated to providing a universal, ethically-based education through integrated learning and the holistic development of the child. The school’s guiding philosophy is based on the concepts of Neo-humanist Education as given by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, a 20th century Indian philosopher. Many of these concepts are founded in the ancient science of astaunga yoga.
The school aims to awaken each child’s thirst for knowledge while developing their whole personality through:
• creative, child-centered learning,
• integrated learning, encouraging children to make connections between disciplines, knowledge and events,
• ethically-based education,
• awakening each child’s spiritual awareness,
• nurturing a spirit of service and social consciousness,
• environmental education,
• Aappreciation of local culture as well as diverse global cultures.
Sunshine students learn how to be self-motivated, to make constructive choices, to achieve their personal best in academics, and to find a sense of purpose in life.
Sunshine School is the only vegetarian school in Laos. We place a strong emphasis on environmentally friendly practices and encourage our students to respect all living and non-living aspects of the universe.
Along with all the subjects in the Lao national curriculum, English language is taught daily in all the classes. Students also benefit from volunteers from all over the world who come to share their skills. This exposure and the effective English language program give our students confidence to speak English which is a tremendous tool for their success in future life. Recently the school also introduced a Chinese language program.
The school gives the opportunity for students to display their performing talents on several occasions throughout the year. This encourages expression of individual talents, team work, self-confidence and leadership skills. Both students and staff love these shows which are highlights of the school year.
Our students and staff regard the school as their second home. They love the friendly, caring and joyful atmosphere of this unique school.
Text by D. Gaorii & I. Martin
Photos by D. Gaorii & Sunshine School staff