November 23, 2007

“Boonpanh, I think INDIGO THREADS should develop a school lunch program for the students from these extremely poor villages.”  We had already provided the 4 poorest villages primary school students with uniforms and school supplies.  School desks and blackboard has been donated to their schools.  “How do we go about this”?  School lunch is not a part of the education system in Laos.  As no one had previously attempted this program, there were no guidelines to model after.  It would be our answer to addressing poor nutrition, malnutrition and a high rate of absenteeism.

On November 23, 2005 our pilot school lunch program served 165 students.  Every Friday for the remainder of the school year, Boonpanh with his wife assisting, purchased, prepared, transported and served a nutritious lunch to the students and teachers at their school.  Increasing yearly, the program has developed into providing 1,400 healthy school lunches per week, a 5 day program.  The program has been determined successful with more students attending school then ever before.




         From left to right Miss Laa, Ms. Meyer-Director, Mr. Boonpanh, Mr. Bai


Boonpanh manages the day to day lunch operation.


Early each morning he makes a trip to the market to purchase the freshest meats and vegetables from local vendors.


Staying within the projected minimal budget and still purchasing proteins and vegetables needed to serve a healthy lunch for 300, is a daily challenge.


Juggling the morning purchases on a motor bike is mastered by Boonpanh as only he could do (and a sight to see).


While stirring and hovering over the huge pots of soup, a careful dash of salt and just a little more chili is added.



10:30 AM

, the soup is ready and tuk tuk Bai has arrived to transport the soup and staff to the schools to serve the students’ lunch.


When not working with the lunch program, Boonpanh assists the Director with all INDIGO THREADS other programs, leaning as he goes along.


While working at an international hotel in Pakse City, Laos in 2004, our paths crossed.  He spoke some English wanting to show me the tourist sights of Southern Laos.  That was 4 years ago when INDIGO THREADS was just a dream.  Boonpanh now works exclusively with INDIGO THREADS, Laos Education Support and Village Development.  Under construction for nearly 6 years, he has proudly completed building his modern style home.  Boonpanh is a youngster (in comparison) of 38 years old, married with 2 children, ages 5 and 8.  He raises pigs to supplement his income.   A great day would be a trek in one of Laos’ many dense forests admiring nature.  Using his creativity and imagination, he enjoys designing sculptures from nature. He is respected and well liked in the villages we work.  Boonpanh has had to learn many unfamiliar skills in the development of INDIGO THREADS programs.  Although sometimes difficult, he is determined.

MISS LAA :                                                                            
While Boonpanh is at the market purchasing the daily food supplies, Miss Laa arrives at to start the two wood burning fires, making sure the big pots of water are boiling when he arrives with the supplies.  This is a challenge during the rainy season.  She carefully cleans, chops and prepares the soup’s ingredients.  Before departing for the schools, the kitchen is cleaned and the cooking equipment sanitized.  She organizes the supplies for our destination making sure we have the serving utensils needed, along with all the chopped raw vegetables added just before serving.  Both she and Boonpanh serve INDIGO THREADS school lunch to 200 to 300 students daily.

The second year of INDIGO THREADS school lunch program, with an increase of 115 students at an additional school, it became apparent we would need more help to execute the lunch program.  Miss Laa was selected.  She doesn’t get frustrated with the hungry students who can often be a handful while waiting for their turn for lunch.  With cooking experience for her large extended family functions, Miss Laa was our choice-an excellent choice.  At the same time, INDIGO THREADS rented a small office house in Pakse City; a perfect set up for our expanded lunch program. Miss Laa is Boonpanh’s 28 year old sister-in-law, his wife’s brother’s wife.  You may have read about her in another blog. She and her husband are first time parents of their 5 month old son.  He is in the loving care of Grandmother Laa while Miss Laa is working. She continued to work during her entire pregnancy. Into the third school year of our school lunch program, she is vitally important to the program.  When asked, she graciously helps with other programs.  The lottery has been good to ‘Lucky Laa’, recently.  Miss Laa always has a smile.  Although we do not speak the same language, somehow we communicate.

We count on Bai for his reliable transportation service.  Rather then rent a tuk tuk, he owns and operates his own vehicle. This transportation service is Bai’s means of supporting his family.  A Laos tuk tuk is a motor bike with a covered type trailer attached.  It is an important means of transportation for people and goods in Southern Laos.  INDIGO THREADS has a standing appointment to transport our school lunch to the schools at .  The 3 huge pots of soup and supplies must be balanced correctly to avoid a mishap. We are not his only clients.  He rises early in the morning to catch the frantic traffic at the large city market.  Although many people have small refrigerators (and electricity) in the city, women continue to market daily serving their families the freshest locally grown foods available.  Bai is more then a cautious driver and a means of transportation to INDIGO THREADS.  He goes beyond the usual duties of a tuk tuk driver.  He often helps and organizes the students at school for their lunch service.  It is never a problem to stop and pick up supplies too large to transport on the motor bike.  Bai lends a hand whenever he can to support other programs.

Boonpanh and Bai are childhood friends, growing up together in villages near the Klong Islands.   Bai is a married father of 4 children, from 14 to 2 years old.  He works 7 days a week to provide for his family leaving little time for relaxation.  With the price of gasoline he wishes there were 8 days in the week.  He has been a faithful part of INDIGO THREADS School Lunch Program since inception. Bai’s big, friendly smile is a welcomed daily sight.

Without fail,  these are the people who make this successful program work.  They are conscientious, committed and proud to be a part of  INDIGO THREADS, Laos Education Support and Village Development, assisting so many undereducated and undernourished poor, rural Laotian children.  With appreciation and thank you t


Miss Laa

Mr. Bai                        

                                                        from Grandmother Falong

Drawing of Grandmother by 13 year old boy from Louyta Village at a Children's Day Party


For More Information and to Make a Donation to Our School Lunch Program

Contact:  Mary D. Meyer/Indigo Threads-President/Director






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