Finding Joy and Purpose in Laos
I was born in Switzerland in 1980, a very sporty and temperamental little girl. During my teenage years, I first studied languages, then sociology and political science and eventually earned a degree in marketing. Later, I also trained and earned a diploma in human resources. As you might have guessed, I always had a hard time choosing what I really wanted to do. Many fields interested me, but none brought me whole satisfaction.
My life took a turn when I met my husband ten years ago and we quickly became inseparable. But we both worked a lot and so did not have a lot of time together.
A trip to Thailand was an epiphany for us; the kindness of people, the mild climate, the simplicity. We returned the following year and it was during this trip we landed by chance in Laos, more precisely in Luang Prabang. Our decision was made, this is where we wanted to live. Laos touched us a lot, and during our various stays, we saw how much this country has been bruised by numerous bombings and multiple conflicts. It resulted in extreme poverty, including lack of access to health care, education and the difficulty of daily life in the villages, punctuated by the rain cycle and the rice harvest. In fact, a lot of Lao live on less than $5 a day, and despite those challenging circumstances, their smiles are omnipresent. We had many more rewarding encounters with people than ever before, and the decision to act was natural and obvious to us.
We created a non-profit organization, L’ASAS, in 2013. After selling our apartment, car and business, we left Switzerland on February 14, 2014 with two backpacks, to settle in Laos. The adventure began! We started from scratch, and every day we approached this country and its inhabitants with immense joy. We started by giving language classes to children. Then things came together quickly: construction of schools, water deliveries, purchase of a school boat to transport children living on the Mekong, distribution of four tons of clothing, blankets and other necessities to 35 villages. L’ASAS takes care of sick children and those requiring surgery. We provide a hygiene workshop in remote villages, a daycare center, a library, and housing for students as well as tuition assistance. We also created the first “Discovery Center” in the country to present scientific themes such as global warming, the human body and endangered species in an entertaining way through workshops. We finance all these projects from donations. Every year, we return to Switzerland for a month to see our family, but also to hold a fundraising event. It takes a lot of work and energy, but we know why we do it.
The first three years of the life of L’ASAS required a lot of time. But once things were established and everything worked, we had free time. It is by chance that in 2017 we had an opportunity to visit a magical place in the idyllic setting of Kuang Si Falls. In about three minutes we decided to rent a plot of land there!
Suddenly we had a new project, the construction of a restaurant, perhaps a little crazy considering our lack of experience in the restaurant business! My husband was previously in insurance and I had no relevant skills. It was a challenge for sure, but we went for it!
Originally, the restaurant, Carpe Diem, had no direct link with the L’ASAS, but it turns out we are finding it to be a virtuous circle. Indeed, today, the manager of our restaurant is none other than the first student to whom we had given French lessons when we arrived in Laos. Our gardener is also one of our protégés; a man rejected by his family for whom we had organized and supported the amputation of his leg following an accident. I have many stories like these to tell.
How do I see the future? I hope for happiness and to make others happy.
What I have learned is that no matter where we come from, or the wounds of the past that we carry, dreams can come true if you believe in yourself and surround yourself with the right people. You can surpass your expectations and build a fulfilling life.
I will conclude with this . . . In Laos, there is a saying that says “Het boun day boun” which can be translated as: “Do good and good will come to you. ”
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