Two Visits and Two more students

Please note that due to Malware and major security issues that my previous website hosting company (Hostgator) was unable to fix, I have now migrated my website to Godaddy who removed the malware that was embedded in all my previous files. I am now confident that my site is Malware and Virus-free and you can go ahead and open this newsletter without fear of infecting your own system.

I know that some of you did manage to open this newsletter and read it but please go through it again as there is an addition that covers the last 2 months of activity while my website was offline.

You can watch the videos by clicking on the play icon. To watch in full screen ... recommended ... simply click on the icon at the bottom right of the video screen, next to the sound icon.

During the second week of January, Bob Beuerle visited the Workshop and although he has been a longtime supporter and donor to the Laos Children’s Workshop, this was his first visit.  As always, Bob was treated to a presentation by the students … which he enjoyed immensely … and that was followed by lunch with the students. 

It was wonderful to see Bob over here in Luangprabang and he was warmly welcomed by the students who thoroughly enjoy showing off their skills to visitors.  Bob also gave us a wonderful donation towards the running costs of the Workshop and already, much of that has been spent on repairs.  The Video cards on a couple of computers have recently packed up and as these are high-end VGA cards to cope with the intensive graphic work we do; they were extremely expensive to replace. 

Thank you, Bob, you have once again, through your most generous support, rallied to the cause.

Stig Dronnen supports the Workshop with a “One time” annual payment that pays for the yearly Internet cost.  The Internet connection for our 12 computers, is not cheap, and without Stig’s most generous contribution, I would not be able to afford the Bandwidth and fast internet speed connection the students enjoy.  The remaining funds were credited to the workshop account and will be used, as necessary, to help cover the day-to-day running costs and equipment repairs. 

Stig, has already sponsored 1 ex-student through University ... who achieved a Bachelor's degree in Computer Programing and is now working for one of the largest IT companies in Laos ... but Stig is also supporting 3 more of my ex-students who are studying Computer technology for their Bachelor’s degree, at University in Vientiane. When those 3 students gain their Degrees next year, that will be 4 of my ex-students with Bachelor's degrees, which is a great boost to my present students and gives them something to aim for.

Thank you Stig for helping those young men forge a future for themselves and for your continued support of the Workshop, without which we would not be in the position we are in today.

The late Monte Ball will be forever missed but he would have wanted, more than anything else, for the Workshop to continue and Henry David, the owner of the “On The Mekong resort, where two of my students are working part-time, has stepped up into dear Monte’s shoes … and what huge shoes they are to fill.  Henry has been recruiting more supporters to the workshop as well as donating two 2nd hand but wonderful Cannon EOS cameras to add to our arsenal, giving more students the chance to use top-quality cameras when working on their projects.  Henry has also brought several Guests from his resort to the workshop where they have been most impressed and there are promises of more cameras and support to come.

Brian Pern and Pong have just returned to Thailand having visited the Workshop for a week at the end of February.

Brian and Pong hand out a suitcase full of Goodies!

On their last visit they gave the students a cooking class, encouraging the boys to help prepare the ingredients and of course, sample the finished product.  However, this time the boys reciprocated with their own cooking demonstration but due to the preparation required ... as you will see in the Video ... and the time it takes to cook on an open fire, they had to make their dish beforehand and film the process, which they showed during the presentation.

On-Line and Lai Song teamed up to make this cooking video of a traditional Hmong Food desert and you will be amazed at the process … whoever would have thought that glutinous (Sticky) rice could end up like this … or indeed, that anyone would have the stamina to produce it in the first place!

Cooking Hmong Food by On Line and Laisong

The students, as always, gave presentations on a wide range of subjects including a clever Green Screen movie made by 16-year-old Lai Song.

Green screen Demonstration

Bounsong’s subject was “My First Adventure” and as you will see, I suspect it was his last Adventure!!!  However, his Videography was excellent and the stunts were extremely realistic.

My first Adventure

Bounxai and On-Line both made wonderful videos of young orphan kids having fun in the jungle.  Without supervision after school hours or at weekends, most of the children spend their time foraging and playing in the surrounding forest and I set this project to show just what fun they have.  The aim I stipulated for these films was: “To produce the best quality video possible, using as many different angle shots as well as close up and pull focus photography to capture the faces and actions of their young actors.”  As you will see in the videos, they did a great job and you can FEEL the JOY.

Kids playing in the forest by 16-year-old Bounxai
Children playing in the forest and river by 16-year-old On Line

On the Saturday, Brian and Pong took the entire workshop out for the day to a fishing lake where everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, catching enough fish to BBQ and eat. 

Xengthor and Tou Lee try their luck while Ai Her waits to unhook the catch.

Brian, who is always able to come up with a surprise, produced a couple of bags of marshmallows and showed the boys how to toast them on the fire … and they loved them … as did I, as I have not toasted Marshmallows since I was a kid and that was quite a few years ago!!!

BBQ Fish and toasting Marshmallows

Lunch, which included large, Fresh Water Prawns, was a wonderful treat for the boys

Thank you Brian and Pong for another most memorable visit.

Advertising, which encompasses Graphic design as well as video making has changed dramatically over the last year or so, and to that end, I have now added animation to the curriculum.  Short animation teasers are now used on Facebook and YouTube as well as in marketing projects and all kinds of social networking sites.  The students are now learning how to use the programs necessary to produce such videos and learn the importance of this kind of work if they are to pursue a career in either Public relations, graphic design, or freelance video making, of which there are numerous opportunities in these fields in Luangprabang.

I recently recruited two new, 13-year-old students to bring us up to our maximum capacity of 12.  They have a difficult job catching up with the other students but already, after just a few weeks, are showing great promise and it is most gratifying to see the older students helping these new boys settle in and learn the basics.  In June, Xengthor, my oldest and longest-serving student, will graduate and I will take on a 3rd new student.  These youngsters will ensure the continuity of the Workshop for many years to come.

13-year-old Thengthor 14-year-old Sa Lao

Meanwhile, the Seal Club … as Monte Ball used to call them because they swim even in the coldest of winter weather … continue to enjoy their half hour of unbridled fun on Saturdays and Sundays and with two sessions per day, each of 20 + kids, I manage to put close to a hundred tiny tots through the pool every weekend … turning it into a massive washing machine,  However, the extra Chlorine I add to the water, most certainly helps their skin conditions, drowning the lice and fleas as well as curing minor Eczema problems!!!

As mentioned above and in line with new techniques being used in modern advertising, I have been teaching the students how to use animation to tell their stories. It has been fun learning the animation programs and all of the boys managed to produce excellent, animated videos for the project I set. I did not concentrate on advertising but gave them free rein to produce an animation video that demonstrated their skill and knowledge of the software.

Bounsong shows great imagination in his animation.
Bounxai talks about his life.

This is a new subject for the students and the videos above were just a bit of fun to prove that they are able to use the software, however, I will be continuing to teach them how to use a combination of animation and real video to produce proper advertising campaigns. However, to prevent boredom, I have now moved on to teaching the more powerful tools available in Adobe After Effects and Premier Pro video editing software. These are incredibly difficult and complex programs used by PROFESSIONALS and if the students can master this, then they are truly on their way to a career in advertising, graphic design, and or video making for which there is a real demand in Laos and particularly in Luangprabang.

Finally, I would like to thank Barry Lindquist for his most generous donation to the workshop fund. He donated the money in memory of the work and support that Monte Ball gave, for so many years, to the workshop and it was a most thoughtful and kind donation.

Already some of that money has been spent buying a new drinking water filter for the student's bathroom. They fill, on a daily basis, 2-liter bottles with fresh water to take back to their dormitories but the old filter was so clogged up, it took 20 minutes to fill just one bottle and new, replaceable filters are no longer available for this ancient model. Needless to say, the new filter is already in full use ... and the water is excellent.

During the recent Songkran (Water Festival) to celebrate the S.E.Asian New Year the inevitable power cuts were a daily occurrence for the duration as water was thrown over everyone and everything including the many bare electrical cables hanging around. Unfortunately on one occasion, when they turned the power back on, the resulting surge blew a number of electrical appliances in my house including the swimming pool pump, my Air conditioning, and the TV in the tiny tot's TV Room. I was able to get the main items repaired but the TV was burned out, and so again, I used some of Barry's donation to buy a new TV for that room. Thank you, Barry, the little kids will be eternally grateful to you ... and there are still funds remaining in the account!

I will end this newsletter by thanking all of you for your continued support of the Laos Children’s Workshop.  It is your support that makes us what we are and I can assure you that each and every one of the students is grateful for your support.

With my very best wishes to you all,