A Great Summer

The end of the long Summer Holiday is in sight and soon we will be back to our normal opening times and introducing a new, exciting program as well as welcoming 6 new students to the Laos Children’s Workshop.

During the last two months the workshop has been open from 9:00am until 9:30pm and has been a sanctuary for the many students who … having no homes to go to … have remained at the Orphanage and, with little else to keep them occupied, have spent much of their time in the Workshop.

School holidays are an essential break designed to allow school children throughout the World to relax, recharge their batteries, clear the clutter from their brains and have fun while they are still young enough to do so and the Workshop embraced those principles by suspending formal activities during this period while at the same time, giving the students full use of the facilities for their own amusement.

The cameras were in constant demand as the boys hiked to local waterfalls or walked down to the banks of the Mekong, filming their adventures and when not out and about, the computers were running full steam ahead with You Tube Videos providing a popular source of entertainment.

The Friday Film Night has continued as usual and is always fully attended … although it is debatable as to whether or not they come to watch the movie or just to get the FREE POT NOODLES that are always served after the film!  This weekly treat has been funded by Stig Dronnen for the last 2 years and is very popular.

20883744_1768962903144559_945588429_o

Assembling the new computers

The holiday program was just right and the students have utilized the facilities to the maximum … but without doubt, the highlight of the summer holiday was a 3 week visit by Stig Dronnen from Norway, accompanied by his daughter Anna and her boyfriend, Nassim.
Stig, as usual, arrived bearing gifts a plenty and the workshop (and the boys) gratefully accepted 2 x Core i5 computers complete with 22inch monitors.  These are capable of running the latest CC programs which are vital for the senior students to keep up to date with the latest software.
Along with the computers, Stig also gave us 2 x Graphic Drawing Tablets which will complete our arsenal of excellent facilities for the growing number of graphic designers and animation artists that we are cultivating, enabling them to release their creativity and realize their full potential.

Add to this, two Go Pro action cameras, extra RAM boards for the older computers and a bag full of Power Banks, USB memory sticks and a couple of Surge protectors for the new computers, Stig once again demonstrated his total commitment to helping the Workshop and the youngsters who study here.

Not to be left out, Stig’s daughter Anna, gave a truly professional presentation to the students on Graphic Design followed by setting them a design project to complete.

The students are captivated as Anna gives an excellent presentation

The students are captivated as Anna gives an excellent presentation

The project was not easy but there were some very good entries and the following week, Anna and Nassim, having marked the projects, awarded prizes to the best Poster Design, the Best Logo Design and the best Promotional Video.

As per last summers visit, Stig took all the students to the local swimming pool for the day …

All the students enjoy a day out at the swimming pool.

All the students enjoy a day out at the swimming pool.

as well as hosting two parties at the Workshop and spending a lot of time sitting in the attic, talking and interacting with the boys.

Fare well party for Stig

Fare well party for Stig

Stig also sponsors 8 of the older students, paying for them to attend classes at the Mekong English Center, where they study English 5 evenings a week and during the summer holiday he also pays for a number of the students to study mathematics at an advanced level at a summer school in the town.  Add this to the financial support Stig provides to help with everyday running costs and it becomes clear that the Workshop could not function at the advanced level that we do now, without his invaluable support.

Your dedication Stig, in supporting the Workshop and the 24 young Orphan children who study here is valued beyond words and we all of us appreciate it very much.

THANK YOU


Next month we will lose four of our Senior Students as they leave the Orphanage and hopefully go on to Higher Education.  This will be a very sad loss for the Workshop as all four students were 11 year old, founder members … in the original group of students … when the workshop first opened 7 years ago.  All four have applied for University and have already taken entrance examinations in a number of subjects, including computer science and we wait eagerly for those results to be published later this month … but they are fine young men, full of confidence and despite their disadvantaged back ground, I am confident they will make the grade.

Stig Takes the Senior Students to Dinner

Stig Takes the Senior Students to Dinner

Stig, with his usual generosity, invited these four young men to dinner in the town in celebration of their graduation and their achievements and contribution to the workshop over the years … and what a wonderful and most memorable evening it was.  When we staggered out of the restaurant … which stayed open very late especially for us … the town was in darkness and the streets deserted and had it not been for a most friendly Tuk Tuk driver who had agreed in advance to stay late, we would have had a very long walk home!

It goes without saying that everyone enjoyed Stig’s visit and He, Anna and Nassim … who also spent a lot of time in the workshop, interacting and bonding with the boys … will be welcome back at the Workshop any time they like.

That about sums up the last couple of months and all the boys will agree that it was a great Summer Holiday!  However, they are now gearing up to start the new term on 1st September … and are ready to go back.  In the Workshop we will be introducing some new subjects, catering for the more advanced students as well as taking in 6 new students to replenish our dwindling numbers.  The departing students will be sorely missed but there are many others ready and able to take up the reigns and they are all excited at taking on the role of TOP STUDENTS … and I am absolutely confident that they will do a sterling job.

Short Film Competition and much more!

May 2017

We are now into the final month of our normal program and everyone is fully engaged winding up their major projects before the schools break up for the long Summer Holidays.  During this period the Workshop will be open from 9:00am to 9:30pm for many of my students who have no home to go to or relatives to take them in.  With an absolute minimum of staff and few activities on offer at the Orphanage, the workshop will continue to provide a place for the boys to chill out, relax, watch their favorite You Tube Channels and keep them safely and usefully occupied during the long school break.

With the Senior Students fully occupied on their own project, this year’s annual Workshop film competition involved only the Junior Students (9 in all) who have each been working on producing a Short Film.  The boys had to write their own script, then film and edit the movie completely by themselves and as this was the first time these youngsters have been assigned such a major project, I was exceptionally pleased with the results.

The competition was extremely difficult to judge … as always … but there was no doubt about the Top three and 14 year old Sangtor, … despite losing valuable marks for not paying attention to his background … still managed the No. 1 spot for the originality of his story and the wonderful, heartfelt portrayal of the two Orphans, by his young actors.

You can watch his video here:  https://youtu.be/72LsvPdzmUk  (and please give it a thumbs up in the comments bar.)

Sangtor receives his Certificate and Note Book Computer

Sangtor receives his Certificate and Note Book Computer … to which he has become very attached!

 

In second place, 13 year old Khamson employed very skillful, technical and special effects along with a catchy ending to his movie “The Amazing Dream”.  As a newbee, who has been studying at the Workshop for only six months, he has already shown great promise in numerous projects and I have high hopes for him in the future.

You can watch his video here:  https://youtu.be/ZDaGwVQOV7A

Khamson receives his Certificate and A Power Bank USB Charger

Khamson receives his Certificate and A Power Bank USB Charger

14 year old Phaher, demonstrated some excellent cinematography along with good special effects and editing skills but lost valuable points because of his predictable Chinese movie, Kung Fu style ending.  Despite this, he was still able to clinch a very respectable 3rd place with his movie “The Fight”

You can watch his video here:  https://youtu.be/HDGUgbbHaEU

Phaher receives his Certificate and Memory card Reader + 32GB memory card

Phaher receives his Certificate and a Memory card Reader + 32GB memory card

Last year, Monte Ball donated a laptop computer to Tae Tor, the 17 year old winner of the Mini Oscars and this year Monte has once again come up trumps by donating a Notebook computer to the winner of the Junior Group competition.  Monte had told me the computer was working “Just Fine” … and it is … what he didn’t say was that the keypad was covered with Super Glue and for the last week poor Sangtor has been stuck to the machine … however, I will give it a few more days before calling the Fire Brigade!

The Worthy Winners ... Short Film Competition 2017

The Worthy Winners … Short Film Competition 2017

Final Results of the Short Film Competition

Final Results of the Short Film Competition

The Senior Students have now completed their filming of the feature film “An Unlikely Friendship” and editing of the final time line is underway.  There has been a lot of pressure on these boys for the last few weeks as they have struggled against all manner of problems … most of them beyond their control … to finish by the completion date of the end of this month.  In fact, we have until December to complete the project within the Sponsorship Period but our deadline is drastically reduced because two of our Star Actors and our Executive Producer, will be graduating this summer … and unlike “Superman” or “Doctor Who” we will not be able to substitute the Characters with other boys!

Cast and Crew "On Location"

Cast and Crew of “An Unlikely Friendship” On Location

 

This Film has undoubtedly been the largest and most difficult project the Workshop has ever undertaken and has been a huge and most valuable learning experience for everyone … including myself!

Producer, Director and Cameraman navigate into position for the Drowning Sequence.

The Producer, Director and Cameraman navigate into position to film the Drowning Sequence.

Team work, forward planning, logistical organization and learning never to give up when life becomes difficult, are all unfamiliar concepts in the South East Asian Culture and for these young men it is completely Alien.  However, they have learned, struggled and overcome the many obstacles they encountered during the last 4 months and the lessons they have learned will be invaluable in whatever career they pursue in the future.

Thanks to the most generous contribution of funds from Barry Lindquist (Mentioned in the previous news letter) our “Green Screen Studio” is now complete and providing a wonderful facility for the students.

The Old Green Screen Studio

The Old Green Screen Studio

The New Studio is now open

The New Studio is now open

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professional LED Video lights, sturdy tripods and fold around Green Screen including floor covering … to enable full figure filming … have turned this into a very professional and extremely useful asset for the Workshop which is now fully operational.

Many thanks Barry, for helping us complete this project.

My very first group of 11 year old students and founder members of the Laos Children’s Workshop have now turned 18 and will graduate from the Orphanage when the term ends in June. It will be the end of a generation for the Workshop … but it will also signal the start of a new era.  For me personally, it will be a very sad day but also a time to reflect on fond memories and I will be putting out a special news letter shortly, to commemorate the event.

Thanks once again to one and all for your continued support.

March 2017 – A busy month.

March 2017

Activities in the Workshop continue apace and with many projects running simultaneously, the place is a hive of activity.  Our New Green Screen material (bought on E bay from a supplier in China) managed, against all the odds to find its way here and the studio is looking good.

Sai Laos is Superman

Click on any photo to see it in full size

Sai Laos

Sai Laos becomes a Super Hero.

We need a few more bits and pieces such as good Tripods for the Lights and most importantly, a cushioned floor to minimize the risk of injury as the boys film stunts and other acrobatics to superimpose on their movies … but, thanks to a most generous donation by Barry Lindquist, we will soon complete that project and have a most professional studio.

Unfortunately, this year we were unable to attend the Vientiane International Film Festival. Sadly, the newly appointed Director of the Orphanage ruled that the festival was not a project sponsored or authorized by the School Board and therefore refused permission for the boys to travel to Vientiane.

Barry Lindquist, who had already donated funds towards the planned trip to Vientiane, refused a refund and instructed me to use the money for a suitable project to the benefit of the Workshop.
That was a wonderful gesture Barry, and on behalf of all the students at the workshop, I thank you most sincerely.  That money will provide all the remaining bits and pieces to complete the Green Screen Studio and will provide endless fun for the students for a very long time to come.

The Junior students have been working on a number of “group” projects during the last few weeks, including working in the Green Screen Studio.  These projects have been aimed at testing multiple skills and learning to work as a team and I am confident that these youngsters are now ready to move up a gear.  Next week, a Guest Speaker (An ex Actor and movie Director .. who appears in the credits of “Schindlers List” … will present some ideas and thoughts on creating short films.

Learning how to light the Green Screen Screen

Learning how to light the Green Screen Screen

Following that, the students … as individuals … will be tasked with making a short film.
Working on their own, this will be their first major project at this higher level and is intended to prepare them for next years Vientiane Film Festival, where I hope to see some entries from this younger group.
Designated a “Major Project” there will be some very good prizes on offer to encourage the boys and I look forward to viewing the work of a “New Generation” of Laos Children’s Workshop, Film Makers.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the Senior Students are involved with the “Unlikely Friendship” film for which they received a Grant of $1,500 from the LPFF (Luangprabang Film Festival Fund).  This project has been plagued with problems from the start … most of which have been no fault of their own … but they are now back on track with filming taking place every weekend and they have set themselves an end of April deadline to finish the outside location scenes.

Production Team and Cast On Location

Production Team and Cast On Location

To date the group has shown great initiative in overcoming many of the problems and the location shoots already completed are of a high standard.  This is a massive project for these young men and the task of organizing and sorting out the logistics of outside location shooting, has been far harder than they anticipated.  However, it has given me the opportunity to teach them the skills and different techniques required to work effectively as a team.
These have been difficult lessons as “Team Work” is a new concept for them.  At the Orphanage they are schooled to take care of themselves and look after number one … working together as a team is completely Alien to them.  However, I am glad to say that they have listened and learned and are now delegating responsibilities and utilizing the multiple skills of the group much more effectively than they were at the start of the project.

This weekend (25/26th March) we were visited by Andrew Collien, a 29 year old from Indonesia who is cycling his way across the world. His project “Draw Dreaming” is a wonderful idea and he is visiting primary schools in towns and villages on his route, where he gets young children to draw “Their Dream”.

Soulin talks to Andrew and the class about his dream to become a Web Site Designer

Soulin talks to Andrew and the class about his dream to become a Web Site Designer

His presentation to the Workshop students was inspirational and many of the students stood up and shared their “DREAMS”.  It was a great evening and gave real substance to the idea that these boys can have a better future if they pursue their dream and never give up.

A steady flow of visitors have passed through the Workshop in the last month and the boys have very much enjoyed showing off their skills.  Their enthusiasm and desire to learn is evident to each and every visitor and all of them have been impressed with our program and activities.
David Lau and his wife Sam from K.L. in Malasia, enjoyed their visit so much that they plan to return later in the year and David has offered to give some lessons to the students on Web Site and Graphic Design.  David is a professional in this field and so his presentations will be a fantastic opportunity and learning experience for the boys.

“Song-Kran” … The Laos New Year … is looming and with daily temperatures close to 40 degrees, the week-long Water Festival will be a good cooling off period for those brave enough to walk the streets … and I have no doubt that all the workshop cameras will be signed out (wrapped in plastic bags) as the boys head into town to join the festivities and capture the highlights on film.

As always, I end this newsletter with my thanks to all the supporters of the Laos Children’s Workshop.  Your help, your donations, your interest in the boys and what they do here and your input in so many ways, is appreciated beyond words and we are all of us, most grateful.

2017 … An Exciting New Year Ahead.

Last year the Workshop hosted visits by many of our friends and Major Sponsors which were much appreciated by the boys.

Rex Bates and Monty Ball in the Workshop

Rex Bates and Monty Ball in the Workshop

Ian Lunnon talks to Soulin

Ian Lunnon talks to Soulin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every visitor to the Workshop leaves behind a valuable impression on these young students … a feeling that they are not alone, that people do care about them and that their efforts at self- improvement are far from wasted.  The visits provide an incentive and motivation that they simply do not get at the Orphanage and the recognition of their skills by visitors is a valuable stimulant. To those of you who managed to find Luangprabang on the map, I thank you for taking the time to come and see us and interact with the boys … you will always be welcome.

Christmas Party 2016

After an extended visit in the summer, it was wonderful to welcome back Stig Dronnen, who arrived in time to join us in the Workshop for our Christmas party … a fun evening with lots of good food, drink and silly games, thoroughly enjoyed by one and all.  Stig reciprocated by hosting a New Year’s Eve party at a Restaurant in the town for all those who had not returned to their villages for the New year and once again his generosity and support for the students at the Workshop, was much appreciated.  It was a truly outstanding week that will remain in our memories for a long time to come.

As well as supporting the Workshop, Stig has been supporting the Orphanage for the last 5 years and as a special Christmas Gift this year, he donated a Flat Screen TV so that the children could watch movies in the evening.  presented to them on Christmas Eve and showing 101 Dalmatians as their first Movie, the children had a wonderful time and using my Senior Students as couriers, I now send films over to the Orphanage on a weekly basis, for the children to watch.

Stig Presents a TV to the Orphanage School

Stig Presents a TV to the Orphanage School

But now the parties are over, the festive season is finally behind us and it is time to get “Back to Work”

2016 was a memorable year for the Laos Children’s Workshop and we start 2017 with great expectations as we try to capitalize and continue building on the experiences and successes of the last twelve months.

The Production group of the film “An Unlikely Friendship” have received their grant from the Luangprabang Film Makers fund and … along with the presentation of a fantastic HDD Video Camera by Rex Bates … they are now ready to start full production.

Production Team "An Unlikely Friendship"

Production Team “An Unlikely Friendship”

The New Year followed almost immediately by the Hmong New Year and now the Chinese New Year plus half term exams and holiday, has left the boys with no time to get out on the ground but they have been working on the script and planning the location shoots and are now ready to get the “Show on the Road” with filming due to start on 11th February. This first “Outside, Location Shoot” will take the boys to a Hmong Village high in the mountains, some 3 hour drive away from Luangprabang and will put to the test all their organization and pre planning … and they are on their own, as my recent back operation prohibits such a journey.  However, I have full confidence in them and look forward to seeing the first rushes.

The Vientiane International Film Festival in March this year has also fallen “fowl” (the Year of the ROOSTER!!!” to the time restraints of a hectic couple of months and as a result, we only managed to submit one film into this year’s Short Film Competition before the deadline for entries closed.  However, the film is very special in that it has been made by two brothers (16 year old Nouchai and his 14 year old Brother, Vanchai) who are both in the Senior Student group at the Workshop.

Nouchai and Vanchai enter an Animation Film into the Vientiane Film Festival

Nouchai and Vanchai enter an Animation Film into the Vientiane Film Festival

The film is an animation: titled “A Fantasy of Love” which was written by Vanchai and Animated by Nouchai and to my knowledge, there has never been an Animation movie entered in previous Competitions … which gives me high hopes for this entry.  The technical skill in producing this movie is incredible … the more so because Nouchai has taught himself how to use the highly sophisticated software which is way beyond my capabilities … and I am confident that his skill will be recognized at this year’s Film Festival.

The Junior Students are progressing exceptionally well and have proved themselves in a number of projects over the last few months and they remain keen, eager to learn and fully committed to the Workshop.

The Junior Students

The Junior Students

With three of my oldest and longest serving students due to leave in the Summer, it is important that the newer boys are ready to step up into their shoes and I have no doubt … based on their present performance … that they will do so with confidence.

 

 

Everyone at the Laos Children’s Workshop looks forward to an exciting and challenging New Year and … with your continued support … we will meet those demands and surpass them.

An Exciting Time

There is never a dull moment at the Laos Children’s Workshop and no two days are ever the same but in this last couple of months we have been busier than ever and involved in a host of new and exciting activities.

The Luangprabang Film Festival is just 2 weeks away and we have entered a total of ten films into the PSA (Public Service Announcement) film competition that will be screened on the last day of the event.   NOTE: Double Click on any image to see it in FULL SIZE

img_6323

The subject is “Waste and Rubbish” … and the aim of the 3 minute films is to show why proper waste disposal is important and to teach ways of doing it safely and correctly that can be applied in small villages and rural areas where there are no proper collection facilities.

Scene from a PSA Video

Scene from a PSA Video

It is a challenging topic but with excellent prize money available there is sure to be a huge amount of competition and the boys have put a lot of thought and imagination into their productions.  Once again my students have called upon kids from the Orphanage to be their actors and with ten films being made they have been swarming all over the grounds, making their documentaries.  This has been a great experience for my young film makers and a good eye opener for the whole Orphanage School … which has never looked cleaner!!!

A group of the Senior Students produced a script for a full length feature film that they wanted to make and the idea was so good that I decided to apply for a grant to help them make the movie.  The majority of the 600 children at the Orphanage are Hmong but there are also Khmu and Laos kids there as well and they all live together in relative harmony.  However in Laos Society as a whole, the Hmong and Khmu are looked upon as low class citizens and the three groups rarely come together.

Production Team "An Unlikely Friendship"

Production Team “An Unlikely Friendship”

My students believe this is mainly due to a lack of understanding between the different cultures and their movie is aimed at closing that gap by highlighting some of the differences in their cultures and explaining how many of the Hill Tribe customs are still relevant today.  Cultural differences will be explained in this Adventure Movie, … “An Unlikely Friendship” … through a series of exciting events involving a Laos, Hmong and Khmu boy who through circumstance, are thrown together as 13 year olds and remain firm friends throughout their years in secondary school.

Panoramic scenes of the magnificent mountain terrain in Northern Lao, coupled with the vibrant colors and rich (traditional) costumes of Hill Tribe villages, will be a backdrop to the film and a number of exciting, often dramatic scenes unfold as the trio set about the task of learning each other’s customs, highlighting the use of Herbal Medicines, Mordoo (Witch Doctor) practices and beliefs and the distinctive way of life of each of the Ethnic groups.

Scenic Backdrop

Scenic Backdrop

 

I applied … on behalf of the boys … to the Laos Film Makers Fund (a part of the Luangprabang Film Festival Organization) for a grant and the Board of Directors liked the concept so much, we were awarded $1,830 towards our production costs. This was a fantastic response to our application and the Production Team are now putting the final touches to their script and gearing up to start making their movie early in the New Year.

 

The highlight of this month was the visit of Rex Bates, Monte Ball, Dee DeSpain and Ian Lunnon, who spent a couple of hours at the Workshop and were treated to an hour long presentation given by the students.

Our visitors listen to the presentations

Our visitors listen to the presentations

13 year old Meesung from the junior group showed a film he made about the workshop and his introduction, IN ENGLISH was word perfect.  14 year old Vanchai showed a film he made of his favorite hobby … Free Running … which was an excellent and exciting video of him and two other Workshop Students, demonstrating their acrobatic skills in this new and thrilling sport.

Nouchai introduces his PSA Video

Nouchai introduces his PSA Video

16 year old Nuchai showed the film he has submitted as an entry into the PSA competition about rubbish and waste disposal and 17 year old Tae Tor gave a demonstration of how the Senior Students are now involved teaching the new and Junior Student groups.  His 5 minute demonstration lesson taught the students how to make an effect in a “Special Effects” program and then incorporate that as an overlay, into a video project.

!8 year old Earsong showed the Teaching Video he had made for the Mekong English Center in the town and which is now being used by the MEC as one of their English lessons to new students.  The last presentation by 18 year old Nousoua was about his favorite hobby … Photography … and he showed a short film of his many weekend expeditions into the mountains and the wonderful photographs that he has taken.

At the end of the presentation there was time for the visitors to mingle with the students and chat … which the boys enjoyed immensely … and then came the BIG SURPRISE!!!

Rex Bates had heard of our quest to get hold of a Professional Standard Video Camera so that we can do justice to the Feature Film “An Unlikely Friendship” that the Senior Students are making.  We had planned on using most of the grant money we were awarded, on the purchase of such a camera but Rex decided that we needed the whole grant to pay for the making of the movie, without having to spend most of it on equipment.  To that end, as he passed through Hong Kong on his way to Luangprabang, he bought a Professional High Definition, Panasonic Video Camera which he then presented to the Workshop.

Rex Bates presents the Video Camera to Nouchai and Yaa Tua, the 2 camera men for the film "An Unlikely Friendship"

Rex Bates presents the Video Camera to Nouchai and Yaa Tua, the 2 camera men for the film “An Unlikely Friendship”

The Laos Children’s Workshop is rapidly gaining recognition in the film industry both in Luangprabang and in Vientiane and many of our PSA videos have been shown throughout Laos on the Government sponsored Public Awareness Program.  This exceptionally generous gift from Rex will go a long way in expanding that recognition by enabling us to produce broadcast quality videos and giving the students the equipment needed to get the very best out of their productions.

Thank you Rex, from everyone at the Workshop … the camera is simply brilliant!

With Christmas coming, we are approaching the end of a memorable and most productive year.  The boys have given their all in every project they have been set and the Workshop remains a place to escape from the dormitory, a place to learn new skills, a place of fun and relaxation and above all, a safe haven where for a few hours each day, the boys can forget who they are and where they came from and dream of a better life ahead.

It is YOUR contributions that make this possible … thank you so much … and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Back to School

In the last Post I wrote in detail about the 2 week visit to the Workshop of Stig Dronnen, who, in the last 18 months has been captivated by the Workshop, the work we do here and especially by the boys, who have impressed him so much.  To that end he has become a major sponsor and although I talked a lot about his visit in the last post, I neglected to mention that since he became actively involved in sponsoring us, he has supplied an amazing amount of equipment.

New Core 3 computers

New Core 5 computers

nasim-teaching-internet

Nasim gives a presentation on the Power of the Internet

Thanks to Stig’s generosity we now have 18 Desktop computers of which 6 … donated earlier this year … are high end, Core 5 machines capable of running the most sophisticated programs.  He has also given us a 47” Flat Screen TV which is in constant use and a great teaching aid for presentations as well as making the Friday Night, Movie night, much more enjoyable!

anna-and-nasim

Anna and Nasim Present Mobile Phones to the Junior Students

It was also remiss of me to not mention Nasim … Anna’s boyfriend … who accompanied Stig and Anna on their trip to Laos.  Nasim is a wonderful young man who bonded easily with the students and earned their respect when he gave an excellent presentation on the use of the Internet for Private study and was able to point the boys towards some amazing web sites.  Anna and Nasim also presented the younger students with Mobile Telephones in recognition of their efforts.

 And now the holidays are over and it’s “Back to School”

The summer holiday has been a LONG 3 months but great fun and the Workshop has once again proved its weight in Gold, providing a safe and enjoyable place to “hang out” for those students from the Orphanage who had no homes to go to.

The long, summer holiday is there to give children the chance to relax, to play, to have fun and to prevent “Burn Out” and to that end I suspended the normal teaching program and the Workshop became an amenities center rather than a learning center, for the duration.

The students were able to listen to music, play the guitar, watch You Tube Videos, surf the Internet and even stretch out on the benches and sleep, if that was what they wanted to do … and every day they were queuing at the door when I opened at 9am and the place was still full at 9:30pm when it closed.

Young students setting up a Video shoot

Young students setting up a Video shoot

But it was not all idle time.  Children … especially the younger ones … get bored quickly and so I set short, fun projects to keep them occupied.  These were not compulsory but almost all the students (Junior and Senior) took part because it gave them something constructive to do.

 

Mixing concrete for the car park

Mixing concrete for the car park

Some of the older boys earned useful pocket money by helping me concrete the parking area at the front of my house and if they fail to leave school with a diploma in Computer Skills, they will all certainly be able to find a job working on the roads.  They worked like demons mixing and carrying cement and enjoyed every minute of it!

 

clean-swimming-pool

Cleaning the swimming pool

Many of the junior students volunteered to clean out the swimming pool after the big flash flood and once again the splashing of water, muddy faces and huge smiles as they set about the task, was a sight to behold.
In the last 3 weeks of the holiday and fully aware that the Senior students were all getting bored and needed direction, I decided to set them a large project that would fully occupy their time.  Having taught them the importance of an Old Fashioned Start, Middle and End to movie making and gone over the principles of writing a script, I gave them the task to WRITE THEIR OWN SCRIPT.  They were allowed free reign to write their story about any subject they liked with the only limitation being the ability to turn it into a film … because that was the second part of the project … they had to make a Movie from their script.

Bearing in mind that most of the movies they have worked on in the past have been short stories with a maximum length of 8 minutes … and it is difficult to have a proper start, middle and ending … this project was to be a 20 minute film and would force them to use all the skills they have learned over the last year.

Cast of the 3rd place Movie .. Love Like A Dream

Cast of the 3rd place Movie .. Love Like A Dream

 

Cast of the 2nd place film The Treacherous Friend watch the Premier!

Cast of the 2nd place film The Treacherous Friend watch the Premier!

 

 

 

 

 

What can I say … the results were amazing and the top 4 films were truly excellent.  There were some great story lines and stunning cinematography as well as amazing actors recruited from other kids left behind at the Orphanage.  Special effects and post production editing was of an extremely high standard and the whole project was a resounding success.

Cat of the Best Movie The Abandoned Orphan

Cast of the Best Movie The Abandoned Orphan

 

The winning entry “The Abandoned Orphan” written and directed by 18 year old Tae Tor was an incredibly emotional story and would bring tears to the most hardened viewer … but it was made even more sad because it is based on fact and many of the kids who are in the Orphanage now, have ended up there because they were abandoned in this way!!!

Tae Tor collects the award for the Best Movie.

Tae Tor collects the award for the Best Movie.

 

 

At this point I must thank Monty Ball for his fantastic donation of a Notebook Computer which was awarded to Tae Tor for his winning Film “The Abandoned Orphan”.  He is one very happy young man!
The winning movies can be viewed on you tube at the following URL’s:

The Abandoned Orphan:  https://youtu.be/ar6Eggi2TQs

The Treacherous Friend:  https://youtu.be/jYD08tJzPOQ

Love Like A Dream:   https://youtu.be/INzAI2sKxgQ

Spirit of Ghost:  https://youtu.be/yYXX6ZVKrR8

A Note on Cameras.

We have 4 very good SLR cameras but our 2 Video cameras are no longer up to the job.  In the past, as the students were learning videography, the Handi-cam, fully automatic point and shoot video cameras were more than acceptable but we have now progressed well beyond the capabilities of these cameras … and beyond my greatest expectations … and some of the students are now truly professional in their cinematography.  While the SLR cameras have excellent HD quality, they are restricted by the need to change the lens for different scenes (Wide Angle or Close up) because of the limited Zoom capacity on these cameras, and the fully automated, fixed lens Handy-cam Video cameras are a nightmare to keep in focus.  This is not a case of “A Bad workman blaming his tools”.  I have carried out many test shoots in different light and situations and have never been able to get it right and so now, with the standard of Videography so high among the students, it is time to think about obtaining a good quality HD Video camera.

If anyone should have … or know anyone who has … a full size, HD Video Camera with Manual facilities who is in a position to help us, it goes without saying that the Workshop would be truly grateful for such a donation.

And now it is back to school and the Workshop returns to its normal routine … with a few changes.

We have lost 3 of our Senior Students this summer, who have now graduated … one of them with a fully paid scholarship to Luangprabang University to study English and I.T. (Information Technology) and with the increase in Computers donated by Stig, I am now in a position to take on SIX new students and I will be interviewing and selecting them from the very long waiting list, during the next couple of weeks.

The Junior students have all proved themselves more than capable of moving up a level and I will be establishing a Mid-Level course for them which they will find more challenging.

The senior students will focus more on English studies … in the form of conversation practice and by debating World Affairs!!!  and they will be given assignments that will require much more thought, imagination and effort than previous projects … and I have no doubt they will rise to the challenge.

The Laos Children’s Workshop is looking forward to another semester, HELPING CHILDREN HELP THEMSELVES, and with 6 new faces in our line up and ever more exciting projects to be tackled I know it it will be great fun … and once again I thank all our sponsors who have done so much to support us over the years, for making this happen and it goes without saying that one and all at the workshop are extremely grateful and look forward to your continued support.

Finally …a tip for those people over 40 … you can view all the photos on this web-site in full size by clicking on any photo.  You will then see a forward and back button that allows you to scroll through all the photos in Full Size.  To get back to the article, simply click on the blue highlighted “Title of the Post” … to the left of the control buttons.

Vist of Stig Dronnen

Visit of Stig Dronnen, from SKAMEK Power, in Norway.

Stig Dronnen has been a major supporter of the Laos Children’s Workshop over the last 18 months and continues to provide us with equipment and financial support on a regular basis.  This summer Stig, was able to visit Luangprabang and spent more than 2 weeks at the Workshop.  His visit coincided with the Summer Holidays which meant that the Workshop was open all day, every day and he was able to spend a lot of time interacting with the students.

Stig Vists the Workshop

Stig Vists the Workshop

 

For the boys, it was an early Christmas, as Stig arrived bearing gifts for one and all which immediately endeared him to the students.  Mobile telephones, USB Power Banks, Memory sticks and portable hard drives were among the many gifts that were handed out and it would have been difficult to find a bunch of happier kids during that time.
Stigs Daughter Anna also enjoyed interacting with the boys and gave a presentation on how to use Microsoft Illustrator.

Anna teaches illustrator

Anna teaches illustrator

Apart from computer accessories and a host of useful gadgets to improve our facilities, Stig also made absolutely sure that everyone was well fed and on his first night in town, he managed to serve up Norwegian smoked salmon steaks on hot French bread as a supper after the Friday night Movie.

Stig prepares Smoked Salmon

Vanchai gives a thumbs up

Vanchai gives a thumbs up

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was followed during the rest of his visit by a host of meals including lashings of Fresh Fish soup (Norwegian style) that he cooked up in huge vats in my tiny Galley Kitchen, while his daughter Anna, baked homemade Muffins.

preparing-fish-soup

Soulin and Cheurtong help Stig prepare fish-soup

fish-soup Norwegian style

fish-soup Norwegian style

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BBQ at a well-known restaurant in town was a very special treat and for many of the young students who have never seen the inside of a Restaurant before, King Prawns and a selection of seafood mixed with Ice Cream was a favorite choice!!!

The BBQ Restaurant was a very special Night Out.

The BBQ Restaurant was a very special Night Out.

Stig Visit 3

 

A couple of visits to the local swimming pool were also on the agenda and for 2 weeks, the boys must have been the best fed Waifs and Strays on the planet!!!!!
swimming-pool-1

 

 

More Food!!!!

More Food!!!!

Stig’s total commitment to the Workshop is unquestionable and with his support I have been able to improve the workshop facilities immeasurably.  The students who attend the workshop stand out a mile from their peers at the Orphanage and they are all turning into fine young men with a clear future ahead of them.

EVERYONE AT THE LAOS CHILDREN’S WORKSHOP WILL MISS YOU, STIG
but they are looking forward very much to seeing you again at Christmas.

Certainly Stig’s visit was the highlight of the summer but it goes without saying that anyone and everyone is welcome to visit.  If you are in Luangprabang then please call into the Workshop.  The children love to see visitors … it makes them feel wanted … and they love to chat and practice their English, so communication is not a problem.

This post has been all about Stig Dronnen’s visit because it was a major event in itself … and the highlight of the summer … but there will be another Post following very shortly where I will be covering everything we have been up to of late and reporting on the start of the new term program.

May 2016 – Update.

Once again this post is long overdue and once again it is a lack of time rather than a lack of activities to report on, that have caused the delay.

The Boys have all been extremely busy both at school and in the workshop and I have been dividing my time between supervising the workshop activities and renovating my house.

House renovation has included sinking a new 50meter well and adding a filtration system which now provides greater capacity and much cleaner, healthier water than the previous system, to both the house and the Workshop.

For the students it has also been a very busy period as they crammed for their end of term exams and the Workshop became a Private Study center for a couple of weeks while the boys used the premises as a place where they could get away from the noise and chaos of the dormitory and sit in peace and quiet to study.

For the Junior students … who were not subjected to the same examination stresses that the older boys were under … I took the opportunity to upgrade their projects and test them on the more professional skills they have been learning during the last few months.  This was a good chance for the younger boys to show off their skills and they did not let me down.

yaa yang – Stop Motion Photography

Projects including Action Photography, Video production and the use of High Power software to create computer graphic work were all completed to a very high level and as a result, I awarded the Private Incentive room as a prize to the younger boys.  This was taking a chance but I decided that they had done everything they had been asked to do … at a very high standard … and therefor they had earned the right to use that room.

Paher catches the moment just right.

I am extremely happy to report that 5 of the 6 Junior students have now rotated through the Private room … 4 days at a time … and all have embraced the responsibility that comes with it and used the facility exactly as it is supposed to be used.  It goes without saying that they have all enjoyed it very much and now feel that they are “Off Probation” and fully integrated into the Workshop, competing with the Senior students on an even keel.

Prior to the Summer Holiday, the Senior students completed a couple of large projects which were a great success.  The Director of the MEC (Mekong English Center) in Luangprabang asked if we could produce a video titled “A day in my Life”.  The aim was to use the video as a teaching aid during lessons at the center.

Rather than pick a couple of my known movie makers, I decided to give each of the senior students … who, sponsored by Stig Dronnen also attend the MEC in the evenings, … the task of producing the Video and each was handed the same script which had to be followed to the letter.

The script had to be spoken in English and describe the activities of the individual from getting up in the morning until going to bed at night.  The background video had to reflect the narration which meant the boys had to understand exactly what they were doing and saying.  Altogether it was a good test of their English knowledge as well as their imagination and creativity in producing a final video.

The results were above expectation and when the Director of the MEC came to view the films, he liked them all and was completely unable to choose a winner.  In the end he took 4 of the films away with him because he felt they were all good enough to be used in future lessons.

Watch 17 year old Soulin’s Video:  https://youtu.be/_PfMFh0gnA4
Watch 14 year old Vanchai’s Video:   https://youtu.be/ouJGqhwtP9c
Watch 18 year old Chearsongs Video:   https://youtu.be/X1pX-o08h2Y

The Workshop was also approached by “The Sabai Grand Spa” group that owns a string of 4 massage and spa shops in Luangprabang.  The owner wanted a P.R. movie making of his services … to be played on large screen TV’s in his shops while customers were waiting for a massage.

Six students volunteered for this assignment and in two teams of 3, went into the town for the day to make their film.  The end result was two excellent videos that the Spa Owner was delighted with and he has now asked us to make another film for a New Spa he is opening next month.  He has also invited the whole workshop to attend the opening party, which will be a great thrill for the boys.

We are now into the Summer Holidays but many of my students have no homes to go to and have remained in the Orphanage.  To that end the Workshop is open from 9am to 9:30pm every day, providing a safe place for the boys to spend their time.  We are also continuing with presentations and lectures, the most recent given by Nui Marang on computer maintenance.

Nui Marang Teaches Computer Maintenance

During this latest presentation they learned how to splice cables for Internet connections.  A practical lesson that they all enjoyed very much.

Soulin and Yaatua splicing Internet cables

During this summer break the Orphanage is on a much reduced staffing level and meals are infrequent at best.  To that end, Mr. Stig Dronnen from Skamek Power in Norway, has donated funds to provide a daily breakfast of a boiled egg and a slice of bread for each of the Workshop students.  This is a wonderful donation that is much appreciated by the boys and when I open the gates in a morning I am almost knocked over in the rush.

I can also announce that I am now an expert in cooking Hard boiled eggs to perfection!!!

And so life goes on in Luangprabang.  The Laos Children’s Workshop continues to flourish, the older boys are maturing and turning into fine young men with good futures ahead of them and the younger students are stepping into the shoes of those leaving school without a hitch.

It only remains to say that none of this would be possible without your continued support and we are all extremely grateful for that.  In the overall scheme of things, the Laos Children’s Workshop is a drop in the ocean but the seeds sown here will multiply and spread over time as these young men move confidently towards employment in jobs that they could never have competed for in the past.

Exciting New program

The Vientiane International Film Festival and the “Trip of a Lifetime” was once again a huge success.  With over 90 short films from around the World, it was an amazing, eye opening experience for the boys and there is absolutely no doubt that each and every one of them returned to Luangprabang with a far better understanding of the power of Film.

The Cultural Hall Vientiane … venue for Short Film Competition

The five films submitted by the Workshop were not among the prizes in the Short Film Competition but neither were we disgraced.  The technical skills of our boys was right up there with the best, the films looked great on the huge screen and each received extremely good applause from a most  appreciative audience.

In the Hotel

The 8 boys who were fortunate enough to go on the “Trip of a Lifetime” enjoyed the experience beyond words and were a credit to the Workshop throughout.  With money in their pockets to spend on themselves, meals in nice Restaurants and enough free time between Film Festival activities to do some sightseeing, they could not have been happier and those wonderful people who sponsored the trip, can be assured that their donations furnished these young men with a truly valuable experience that will stay with them for many years to come.

Although the film festival is now out of the way the Workshop remains a hive of activity and the new program of promoting excellence in the Senior Students and bringing the Junior Group up to a higher standard, has already started.

For the senior students this means starting each presentation with 15 minutes English Conversation practice. Conversation in this part of the world is monosyllabic at best and often amounts to no more than a Question and Answer session.  During their 15 minutes conversation practice, all the students are expected to join in and contribute at least one sentence to the discussion and as a result, they are already discovering that conversation can be fun.

In addition to that, I nominate one Senior Student each week to give a presentation to the Junior Group.  I specify the subject to be taught and they must prepare a lesson and deliver it the following week to the young students.  This presentation is assessed by me and the student is debriefed at the end of his lesson.  The boys who have delivered their lessons so far have done exceedingly well and the experience of teaching is invaluable.  They have all told me that it was harder than they thought it would be … but they had enjoyed the experience.

For the Junior students, the lectures given by their peers is proving a great success and the youngsters are undoubtedly improving both their technical skill with the more complicated programs and their imagination in the use of those programs.

Presentations start with 15 minutes Conversation Practice

Computer Maintenance lessons will continue on a regular basis with presentations given by Nui Marang and a program of presentations given by Claus Haumer … a German Expatriate living in Luangprabang …will start very soon, teaching the students from both groups, Directing and Acting skills.  As a professional Movie Director, these lessons will be wonderful for the Kids and I am sure will improve their movie making skills no end.

The “Friday Night is Movie Night” continues and is enjoyed very much by the boys … in particular the hot, “Pot Noodles” that they are given at the end of the movie, which is paid for by Stig Dronnen.

To everyone who helps and supports the Laos Children’s Workshop, I thank you on behalf of all the students for everything you have done for us and I can confirm once again that your contributions have gone to a good cause and are paying dividends.  We have a fine bunch of young men here with real prospects for a better future and you can be proud of them.

February 2016

This year my aim for the workshop program is twofold.  Three of my senior students will be leaving school this summer and another four next year.  To that end it is important that we maintain a status quo and that means the present group of young students need to improve their skills to a level where they can take over from the older boys who are leaving.   A new group of younger students can then be absorbed into the system after the summer holidays.  To achieve this first aim a new, more complex program of study will be introduced for the Junior group and they will be expected to complete more complicated projects as confirmation of each step.  They will learn how to fully utilize the facilities of Photo Shop, and Premier Pro to produce both Graphic and Video presentations at a much higher level, as well as improving their computer skills and English.

Laos Children’s Workshop Students

For the Senior group it is a time for consolidation and implementation.  They are all extremely competent in both computer skills and all the graphics and video programs that we teach but their presentations are lacking in finesse.  It is time now to make everything perfect and all the projects they are given will be marked with perfection in mind.  The students will need to use their imagination and come up with original ideas and learn that 2nd best is not good enough.  Only those students who achieve perfection will win prizes … and there are many prizes to win.

The Private study room is now fully fitted out including having its own shower and it remains a great incentive for the Students to compete for.  There are a couple of 2nd hand laptop computers that have been donated as prizes for the winners of special projects, and Power Banks, USB memory sticks and various other smaller prizes are all up for grabs by those who put the effort in.

The Private Room provides Incentive

Nui Marang … a qualified computer programmer … who owns a chain of  Spa and Massage shops in Luangprabang is now giving regular instruction on Basic Computer skills and Maintenance.  These presentations are excellent and the Senior Students are improving their knowledge and gaining in competence as a result.

Nui Marang Teaching Basic Computer skills

 

Nui has also set a project for the students to film in his Spa shops and produce a PR Video for potential customers to watch.  This is a big project which is planned to start later this month. 

At the time of writing we are just 4 days away from our departure to the Vientiane 2016 International Film Festival and with 5 Films entered in the Short Film Competition and 8 students traveling to Vientiane, the excitement is mounting.

The students teamed up and produced 8 films with the hope of gaining a place in the Short Film Competition of which 5 were selected for entry and will be screened in front of a large International Audience on the last day of the festival.   With a first prize of 8,000,000 kip (1,000$) a second prize worth 500$ and a third prize of 250$ this year’s competition has attracted many young, Laos Film Makers from all over the country.  With 40 films submitted, the competition is going to be tough but just getting our films accepted is a huge achievement and to win a prize would only be icing on the cake.

Once again … as last year … a number of wonderfully kind and generous people have sponsored this year’s “Trip of a Lifetime” which will give 8 young Orphan Children the chance to experience many things that would under normal circumstance, be beyond their imagination.

Flying, which we all take so much for granted is well beyond the means of these youngsters and this may well be the only time in their life that they get such an experience.  Visiting their capital city is another experience that is not likely to be repeated and they will have the opportunity to visit places they have learned about in school but never thought they would ever see.

The boys will have 4 days in a hotel and experience real beds, sheets and CLEAN towels for the first time in their lives.  They will learn how to use a proper bathroom and shower, neither of which they have seen before and taking off their dirty jeans at night before going to bed and dressing in clean clothes the following day will be a novelty that they will enjoy beyond belief.

To most of us these things are no big deal, a part of everyday life which we take completely for granted but to these Lads, almost everything we do in Vientiane will be a first … and quite possibly a last.  That is why this trip is so important.  It is all about experience and from that experience the seeds … that will  hopefully spur them on to greater study and self-improvement … will be firmly planted.

My next post will be a detailed report on the Trip of a Lifetime … don’t miss it.