Meet Som May (nicknamed May pronounced Mai). He’s a 22 year old trying to make a “base” for himself by going to school and working as hard as he can. May moved to Luang Prabang to go to college 4 years ago and hasn’t returned home to his village for the past 2 years. He is alone here with no family support. He barely has time to hang out with friends because he works 7 days a week at the guesthouse we’re staying at, sleeps on the floor behind the reception desk, and gets paid $80 a month (600,000 kip), just enough to pay for college which is $700/year.
His parents are sticky rice farmers in a village 3 hours from Luang Prabang in Laos, one of the poorest countries in South East Asia. Their village has no electricity and gets water from wells with no bathrooms anywhere in the village. Their only source of income, rice, is sometimes hard to sell because the village is so remote and far from any city. He’s the youngest child of 3, with 2 older sisters that are already married and still living in the village.
Regardless of all this, he speaks the best English of anyone we have met here in Laos, and amazingly enough, has learned it all from YouTube videos online on how to speak English (Let’s talk podcasts)! He also practices with visitors staying here at the guesthouse.
May had saved 2 million kip ($250) for a used laptop, but it was stolen from the reception desk when he fell asleep at the guesthouse. He has one more year of studying finance though he really wanted to get into IT, but didn’t get in because he didn’t have money to bribe the “boss” of the university so that he could get accepted. The bribe costs $200-$300, but that’s separate from what he would have to pay for books and university fees. He loves to study and says he is the class “leader” of 50 students. His goal is to continue studying for his Bachelor’s degree, though he states that you have to pay to secure admission at the university and to secure a good job in Laos after graduation.
His situation is so sad, yet he tells us his story with a smile on his face. Regardless of his obstacles, he sees education as his way to a better life and is willing to sacrifice his time, effort, and the little money he saves for a better future. Meeting people like May really puts into perspective all the complaining we’ve done in our lives when things do not go our way.
The price of a used laptop here is $250. We’d like to raise the money to replace the one he lost so he can continue studying English, be able to write his presentations for school, and begin to create a better life for himself and his family. I think that our friends can help with $5+ donations. We don’t like most charities or non-profits because you do not know where your money is actually going. But these $5+ are going to the source. Giovanni and I will add the rest so that the total is $250. If we manage to raise more than $250, we will donate the money towards his books and school fees. You can donate to my PayPal account email@example.com or by clicking on this button:
Kop chai (thank you)!
We were truly overwhelmed with the generosity of our friends and family. After less than 3 days of receiving donations, we had enough for the laptop and were ready to go to the store and buy a computer. It wasn’t quite as easy as we thought. May returned from university and said he saw one computer store on the way which had 4 computers and only 1 netbook, which cost 2 million and 800,000 kip. He had never gone to a computer store in Luang Prabang and didn’t know of any other stores. That was out of our budget so Giovanni and I decided to ask around. We were recommended one store, so we went with May that same day but it was closed. When we returned, that store only had 3 laptops all of which were priced over 3 million kip. So we decided to keep biking.
We were riding down a side street when I saw a sign with a picture of computers and netbooks. However, the cheapest netbook was also 2 million and 800,000 kip. I was getting a bit hopeless and worried that we would have to raise more money since prices were higher than we expected. And there was no realistic possibility of a used laptop since May happened to buy his previous laptop from a friend who had upgraded, but none of his friends were currently selling their computer. And it’s not like there’s Craigslist here! Giovanni and I biked a bit further, and I told him to stop after seeing one last possible computer store. There was construction so we had to duck under a wood plank just to enter the store. Inside, the Lao owner told us he had one netbook and the price was 2 million and 600,000 kip. We were able to negotiate it down to 2 million and 500,000 kip, and planned to return with May the next morning to get his approval. We came back to the guesthouse pretty tired since we didn’t expect to bicycle around town for half a day looking for computer stores.
The next morning we all returned to the store on bicycles. May was very happy with the netbook so we purchased it, and received a mouse for free! It was nice because the computer comes with Microsoft Office and a handful of other programs. It’s interesting that the laptops are imported fromThailand, so the keyboards and software is inThai.Thankfully, they give you stickers to place over each key for the Lao alphabet in addition to the English keys. So with a plastic bag in hand carrying his new netbook and a smile on his face, May bicycled back to the guesthouse! We all celebrated with mango shakes when we returned “home”!