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Published: March 10th 2011
Laynou is a man with a mission. He's discovered the magic of books and believes everyone else should have a chance to delve into this world of wonder. Books open up new vistas, allow the imagination to soar, give a soul space . Study books feed the brain, and give a chance for improvement and growth in a different way. Laynou's doing his utmost to give all kids and adults living around Luang Prabang a chance to get their hands on, and their heads and hearts around books.
We visited his home, the greater part of which is a library. Out near the airport, on a busy main road, the dusky pink house rattles when planes land, practically skimming the thatched roof. "I didn't think about the dust", Laynou tells us. The computers - two, one of which has access to internet - often become clogged and break down; the shelves are almost empty, and contain at least three copies of the Lonely Planet Guide to Laos, but it's a start - the beginning of Laynou's dream. The little library is open - free of charge - from 08.00 - 19.00 Mon - Sat; (Laynou has two boys who help
him) and from 17.00 - 18.00 Laynou gives English lessons to local kids. A group of ten or so girls and boys piled in at the end of our visit - they sat on wooden benches on either side of a long trestle table, clutching pens and loose pieces of paper. The kids have a huge thirst for learning. A recent United Nations study in the poorest countries in the world asked children 'What do you see as your greatest need'? Seventy-five % of Lao children answered 'an education'. Twenty-five % said more food to eat and help when sick.
Laynou is just an 'ordinary' young man; but like many 'ordinary' people he is remarkable. Intelligent, earnest, determined to make a difference. He now studies law at the university in Luang Prabang. Even the universtity has very few resources - one room full of books for thirty thousand students. No computer. No access to the internet. "When we have to write a report we must go to Vientiane. It's a long way - (10 hours by bus) and expensive" he told us. And of course, university study itself does not come cheap. Laynou worked for two years - in
a bookshop, and selling coffee from a stall at the night market - to fund his study. He was also lucky enough to be sponsored by a friend to study/work for a year in Australia. The government awards forty scholarships for overseas study every year but the vast majority of places (approx. eighty-eight %) are awarded to students from Vientiane; provincials hardly get a look-in. "This makes me a bit sad", said Laynou falling momentarily silent. "We are not stupid, we just don't have the resources".
His year in Cairns gave Laynou lots of pause for reflection. He saw that everyone had a chance to read; magazines, books, and news were freely available. Although he worked washing up in a restaurant, he discovered that no-one thought any the less of him for it. He explained that people dared to be themselves, express an opinion, no matter what work they did, while at home certain jobs carried great prestige, power and privilege, and conferred status. Books and study he believes can offer this chance of freedom. Laynou, having received a helping hand himself, is more determined than ever to continue and extend his library.
Laynou was about to have a 'holiday' - at least a university vacation - but he was travelling to Thailand to buy second hand law books with donations that he'd been given. Constantly striving until his dream - more books, more computers, more internet, new premises away from the dust - is fulfilled.
Laynou is a young man with a mission. "I love my country Laos and would like to see this country develop in the right way. I believe that the best way forward for Laos is for all Lao people to become educated. I want to help others to do this as much as I can". For photos, more info. and to make a donation please see
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