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Hear their voices!

Poverty affects children most. That’s why it’s so important to include them in the process of solving it. When we first enter into communities, like Nga, we meet with local people to find out what their needs are before together deciding how to best address them. And a big part of this is speaking with children.

Six children sit on steps and embrace, smiling

Your Community Sponsorship helped organize 45 group discussions, where children could offer their input and opinions on the things that matter to them. Children ages 4 to 13 participated, along with mothers, fathers, caregivers, school staff and community leaders. Over 300 people took part, including 200 girls and boys of equal numbers.

A staff member asks a child questions and records the answers

Staff interview children to gain insight on their needs.

But what’s the best way to engage children as young as 4 in discussing complex issues surrounding their lives and community?

First, we ensure the process is:

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

Then, your support enabled us to consult with children in a variety of engaging ways:

Child-led walking tours: Accompanied by staff, children led their group through Nga and local schools. Along the way, they pointed out things that they are happy with or would like to change, and contributed their ideas.

Mapping exercises: Drawing activities encouraged children to illustrate local challenges and opportunities. These included problem trees exploring the root causes of issues, individual maps that highlighted children’s feelings (both positive and negative) and seasonal maps explaining how the change in local climate affects their lives (e.g., more children miss class to help at home during harvest season and fewer wish to walk to school during colder months).

Double panel of both a child-led walking tour and two young girls in traditional dress using paper to map our their issues.

Children lead a tour (at left) and map out their feelings (at right).

Puppets and play: Children had the opportunity to step into a role or character where they could feel more confident expressing their views and opinions.

Staff workers use puppets to engage young children in the survey activity.

Staff use puppets to engage children in the activity.

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.

Multi-panel of children using the “fish in the current” activity to inform teachers of their issues.

Local children play the fishie game to share their thoughts.

Many insights and concerns came to light during these activities, including the greatest obstacles to quality education and how to best accommodate various learning levels – particularly among those who don’t speak Lao, the official language of instruction.


“I want to study, I want to know the letters.” – 8-year-old boy

“I like holding a pen and writing.” – 6-year-old girl

“I want to complete my education and go on to vocational training.” – 11-year-old boy

“I gain knowledge and get to study.” – 12-year-old girl

“I like going to school because I want to study to a high level to get a proper job and have employment.” – 8-year-old boy


Above all, girls and boys showed interest in studying so they could later gain stable employment to escape poverty and support themselves and their families. They were especially excited to become literate and communicate in the official country language of Lao – something your Community Sponsorship is helping them embark upon, and will someday help them achieve.

Boys and girls stand and smile, arm in arm.

Thank you for ensuring the voices of children aren’t only heard – they’re taken into account.

Now see how your support is already enabling Mrs. Tem and her students to learn alongside one another!

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