Enabling children in Laos to raise their voices and inspire change

Children have the right to be heard and to take part in decisions that affect their lives.

That’s why Plan International works closely with children to understand their needs, priorities and concerns before we begin implementing programs in the communities where we work.

These initial discussions with children not only enable us to understand complex local challenges from a youth perspective, but also ensure that children play an active role in their own progress and development.

Group of boys and girls smiling

Deep within the mountains of Northern Laos lies the small, impoverished community of Nga, where Plan International Canada’s Community Sponsorship program is working to create a brighter future for 4,500 people, thanks to the support of donors like you.

Recently, 200 children aged between 4 and 13 years participated in 45 group discussions where they shared their honest views on everything from school to family to future aspirations, in order to guide our work in their community.

Children taking charge of change

So, how did we engage children as young as 4 in Nga to discuss and share complex issues affecting their lives and community?Plan International staff and children perform using puppets

First, we ensured that the process adhered to the following criteria:

  • Voluntary
  • Relevant
  • Inclusive
  • Safe
  • Sensitive
  • Fun!

Then, we encouraged meaningful discussion through these 4 innovative ways:

  1. Child-led walking tours: Accompanied by Plan International staff, local children led a group through Nga. As they wandered streets and entered local schools, the group pointed out all the things that made them happy, as well as where they’d like to see change.
  1. Mapping exercises: Drawing activities encouraged children to illustrate challenges at home, and in the community. Some of the exercises included problem trees that explored the root causes of issues, individual maps that highlighted children’s feelings (positive or negative), and seasonal maps that enabled children to demonstrate how the local climate impacts their lives.

2 images: Children leading Plan International staff through Nga, and children drawing on a map

  1. Puppets and play:Children were given the opportunity to step into a role or character where they could feel more confident expressing their views and opinions.
  1. The Fishie Game:Children animated fish to swim either with or against the current to identify a number of issues that make it easier or more difficult for them to safely learn, grow and thrive.

children participating in the fishie game

Hearing what they had to say

Throughout the various discussions, we listened carefully as many new insights came to light – in particular, Nga’s crucial need to overcome the barriers to education.

Children told us about their ambitions to attend school, attain jobs, and eventually support their families. However, many also raised concerns about accommodating the various learning needs in the community – especially among those who don’t speak Lao, the official language of instruction.

Overall, children were excited to learn, to become literate, and to develop the tools and skills needed to reach their full potential.

Children standing together, smiling

Working towards a brighter future

Together with local community leaders, Plan International Canada is working hard to transform the lives of children by helping them turn their dreams into a reality – but we can’t do it without you!

By becoming a Community Sponsor, you’re helping the people of Nga embark on an incredible journey from poverty to progress, while ensuring that children have access to crucial rights like education, clean water, and safe healthcare. `

Join us, and see what’s possible when a community breaks the cycle of poverty!

Become a Community Sponsor today!