Lao women welcomed and supported single mother Debbie Petlueng when she first moved to Laos. Now she wants to give something back.
I’m Debbie Petlueng, a Sydney single mum, who has started a social fund called ‘Women in Laos‘. I want to give Lao mums bringing up children alone the opportunity to have the skills to earn an income and so be able to give their children a decent education and health care. Thus breaking the cycle of poverty and vulnerability.
I have raised $15,000 so far which is supporting 15 mums to attend vocational training and then be mentored to get a job or start a business. I am working in partnership with the Lao Women’s Union in Lao, who will conduct the training at their centres, and APHEDA Australia.
The next step is a supporters group trip to Laos in September this year to meet the women we support and experience Lao life.
I first went to live in Laos in 1992, and started my working life there teaching English and teacher training at the engineering faculty of the university before I started working on health and education projects projects with the UN and Save the Children.
When I came to Laos, it was Lao women who were so welcoming and supportive of me. In the predominately Lao neighbourhood we chose to live in, it was these neighbours who would come and help me when we had parties at the house for birthdays, new year and special events. I have very special memories of my Lao women neighbours sitting on mats across my backyard chopping and mixing and cooking, laughing and chatting and singing – and even downing a beer or 2 as they worked. It was a very important and significant stage of my life and the positive experience I had living in Laos, what I gained from the experience, has made me want to give something back.
Why single mums in Laos?
As a mum on her own in Laos it is likely you will live in the worst house in the community, on the edge of the village, the furthest from water sources and school. Or you live in the worst house in the urban shanty town, that gets flooded every time it rains.
You have lower social status and can be often excluded from community activities and events. You may have no one to call on when you need help.
There is no social welfare and few social services in Lao.