Gerlinde Engel and Bouangeun Hanthavong visit Karlsruhe – 8 July 2016
Great joy and honour! Gerlinde Engel, co-founder of Angels for Children and one of the two members of the present board, paid a visit to the German team in Karlsruhe in the company of her long-standing assistant and “right-hand-woman” Bouangeun Hanthavong (aka “Linda”) and her son Thonee. It was a hot Friday afternoon – in the metereologically hottest city in Germany – when her nephew Daniel Wensauer-Sieber, also a member of the foundation, and his wife Elke Sieber and son Max welcomed the three guests into their home in Karlsruhe, where they would spend an eventful weekend together.
The first afternoon and evening, however, was reserved to a reunion with Prof. Martin and her Team I and II, and to an introduction to Team III. We had coffee and cake ready for 4 o’clock in our conference room for a traditional German “Kaffeetrinken”, and soon the room was filled with animated conversation. Apart from catching up with one another and showing Gerlinde and Bouangeun where we normally work, it was the perfect opportunity to introduce our university administration to Gerlinde in person: Chancellor Ursula Wöll and Head of Foreign Affairs Simone Brandt joined the party and were able to hear more about the background and origins of the work of the AfC foundation from one of the founders herself. As Gerlinde is a premium storyteller and as her Laos stories are so extraordinary and unbelievable anyway (from a European perspective), everybody stayed longer than expected, and fascination for the work of this great lady was tangibly growing. This included student reporters Judith Anton and Anna-Sophia ten Brink from Auriska-PH-Radio, who had come for a brief interview and stayed all afternoon.
As the conference room also houses Prof. Martin’s Lending Library, our student librarian Marlene Findeisen gave a short introduction to the scope and diversity of the didactic material on offer, which had served as both a source and a model for the new Lending Library of primary didactics material in Sikeud, which we founded last year. Double copies had been donated, publishers had donated material (cf. “Thanks“), and AfC footed the bill for whatever else Prof. Martin had considered essential for a library starter-set in Laos. The same work is awaiting us in this second year regarding a new Lending Library for Ban Phang Heng secondary school, and the necessary research for suitable didactic literature is already well underway.
Another study room Prof. Martin set up in 2014 is the Self-Study Centre with its digital state-of-the-art language lab including butterfly tables and software from Tandberg, two Interactive Whiteboards, and an i-theatre. Marie Kiefer, doctoral candidate and a member of Prof. Martin’s Erasmus+ STORIES project, introduced 6-year-old Thonee and Max to digital storytelling, which made them forget instantly that they had only just been too hot and tired for anything. They got completely engrossed as the i-theatre is so easy for children to operate, and started to put their own first digital story together quite intuitively.
Then another reporter arrived from the Badische Neueste Nachrichten, Tina Kampf, for her interview with Gerlinde, and she stayed thrice as long as she had intended. Her article on the AfC schools in Laos was published the following week (“Schulen als kleine Oasen”, BNN, 14.7.2016, p. 21).
We therefore arrived late at the Chinese Restaurant and thus missed Julia and Jule from Team I and II, who had waited there for us, but they returned later to at least spend a bit of time with Gerlinde and Bouangeun. AfC treated everybody to dinner, as usual, and a great time was had by all, also as usual!
Text by I. Martin
Photos by I. Martin & L. Kringe