Brian and Pong’s Cooking Class and much more.

This Newsletter is long overdue, for which I apologize but sadly this year has been a medical nightmare for me and I have spent the best part of the last 5 months in Thailand … on the wrong end of the surgeon’s knife … as they have tried to fix my crumbling spine.  Due to advanced osteoporosis, my back is crumbling and no sooner had they fixed one compression fracture when another one appeared.  However, the ordeal of 4 operations is now over and with an all-time record of 38 screws securing 4 metal rods in my spine, I am now back in Laos where I am once more happily ensconced in my home. Although I am still learning how to walk again, which will take some time, I am starting to recover and feeling stronger every day.

In between trips to Thailand, I have, for the most part, been able to keep up my teaching program and, before departing on each hospital visit, given the students projects to complete in my absence which I have then marked and critiqued upon my return.  There is no substitute for properly organised lessons but this bunch of boys are well trained and able to use the workshop and complete any projects I give them, without supervision and I have been most impressed with the standard of work they have produced in my absence.

Fortunately, I was able to fix my hospital schedule to be on hand for a major visit in March when Monte Ball led a delegation to visit the workshop.  Brian Pern and his partner, Pong used to run a Mediterranean style restaurant in Chiangmai until they were forced to close during the COVID Pandemic.  Now, from his house in Chiangmai, Brian runs cooking classes for underprivileged youngsters.  Each, “One chef at a time” project runs for 12 weeks during which time these budding chefs are taught primarily French cuisine to a very high standard and on completion they are then placed with 4 and 5 star hotels and restaurants for full time employment.

Enjoying the presentations

Brian and Pong were accompanied on the trip by Warren Ward, an Australian friend of Monte’s who was visiting SE Asia and the whole group descended on the workshop for 5 days.  As always, the students put on a demonstration of their skills for the visitors and did a sterling job, leaving our guests most impressed.

With no parents to buy them toys and with no money to buy their own, I wanted to show our visitors how the younger children in the Orphanage make up their own games and have wonderful fun without the need of an X box or other such expensive equipment. To that end I tasked a number of the students with making a video to show some of these games. To that end I tasked a number of the students with making a video to show some of these games.

Sengthor produced a wonderful movie of a simple game which had the children in hysterics

Movie making is one of the major subjects I teach in the workshop because through this media I am able to open the eyes of the students to the outside world and to demonstrate their skill in this discipline, I assigned 15-year-old Lee Laos the task of producing a short movie on any subject of his choosing.  The boys really do enjoy making movies and using mainly students from the workshop as his actors, Lee Lao produced a film of the highest order.  Bearing in mind that he had only one camera to capture all of his scenes, he had to make his actors do the same scene 3 or 4 times and, along with his great location, produced a very professional video … don’t ask if he got permission!

Great acting, great stunts and a truly proffesional movie

After the presentation while the boys enjoyed Pot Noodles paid for by Monte, I entertained the guests for lunch on my patio.

The following day our visitors returned and this time it was pay back, where Brian and Pong entertained the students with a cooking demonstration.  This was a truly wonderful day for the students as Brian ensured that every boy got numerous turns at helping to prepare and cook the meal.

With the kitchen closed and everyone sated Brian and Pong handed out a small gift to each student.

Brian helps some of the students to assemble their gifts

Warren talks to the students

Although I took all the video of the visit … so that every student could watch and join in with the cooking demonstration … afterwards, I set the students a project to go through the many hours of video and to produce a 10 minute film of the event. I explained to them that even a bad film can be improved by good editing and that now was the chance to show off their skills. It was amazing how different the final videos were and it was difficult to choose a winner but at the end of the day it was Laisong who came out on top

All the videos were good and everyone had a great day. Many thanks to Brian and Pong.

Before I left Laos for the final operation on my back, I had very briefly covered the art of Interviewing.  This is a difficult subject but one that helps build self-confidence as the student’s interview each other.  It requires a lot of preparation and planning as well as providing an opportunity for the students to practice their English but as you will see from the following interviews, they certainly enjoyed the project … but still have a lot to learn.

Too Lee interviews Laisong

Fighting off wasps is a hazard one must accept if you want to conduct your interview outside.

Wonderful ending!

Nou Soua interviews On Line

Most of the students conducted their Interviews in English and I was pleasently surprised at their standard

This week the schools have broken up for the long summer holiday and the Workshop is very quiet as most of the students have gone back to their
villages. However, from experience, I know that in a couple of weeks’ time they
will start trickling back as life on the farm fails to satisfy them as much as
the Internet and video games in my workshop.

At this point I would like to thank Stig Dronnen for his extremely generous
contribution to the workshop. Stig has traditional paid our Internet bill every
6 months but upon hearing that I was in hospital and the staggering cost of all those operations, he kindly donated a princely sum of money for me to use to cover some of the workshop’s expenses. Thank you, Stig, it was a generous and most thoughtful contribution and you can rest assured it will be put to good use.

While on the subject of finance, the workshop is still in excellent
shape both on the structural side and equipment wise. However, there is one
issue that I would dearly like to resolve, if nothing else other than to
level up the playing field. Last year we were able, thanks to your donations,
to buy 8 new, faster and more up-to-date computers which were handed out to
the senior students. However, the new students … who are not so new now … had to put up with the old, slow and pretty much worn-out computers that the new ones replaced. In all fairness, these youngsters cannot compete fairly with the
older students, particularly when using the memory intensive video editing software and now, as their skills are improving, I would love to be able
to upgrade their computers.

The cost has gone up since last year but I still hope to buy 4 new computers
with a similar specification for about $450 each and so I appeal to you all to
help with this project. I fully realise that times are hard, they are for all
of us, but if there are enough doners to share the cost, each individual’s
donation, no matter how small, will soon mount up.

Believe me, these young men are worth it. They do work hard,
in their free time, to study here with the aim of improving their chances of
employment in the future and they are very appreciative of the help you give
them. Just listen to “On Line’s” interview where he thanks all of you for supporting the workshop.  Should you feel you can help us buy these 4 new computers please drop me an email. I will be delighted to hear from you and will happily give you the Workshops Bank account details. The next News Letter will hopefully be a better design than this as, with the summer holidays underway, I have time to design a new website … hopefully VIRUS FREE!

With my very best wishes to you all,