Life in Laos



My name is Her Vang and I am a 19 year old student from Laos. I am currently studying at United World College Maastricht, the Netherlands. I am from a very poor family which is originally from a tribe in the mountains of Laos called "Hmong".

When I was a child in a small village in the countryside of Laos I experienced and had many friends who couldn't go to school because their parents had no decent jobs to enroll them into school. Others dropped out of school because their parents couldn't afford it any longer due to the number of siblings. When parents could not give everyone the opportunity, very often in this case, parents would choose boys over girls. In terms of education, gender inequality is still a main obstacle that prevents girls from getting the basic education they need. I strongly believe that everyone, no matter what race, religion, gender, etc, has the right to go to school when they wish to.

Four years ago when I moved from the countryside to the city of Luang Prabang, Laos I wanted to learn English but due to my family situation it was impossible for me to afford English classes. Nonetheless, with the desire to speak English, I went onto the streets and tourist sites to look for foreigners to speak to and learn from. Luckily, I found an American teacher who teaches English to poor children for free in the city, and I was invited to his class. For the last 4 years I went to his class every night, and continued practicing with many foreign tourists. 10 of my friends and I actually lived with our teacher like a family. In those 4 years my English improved incredibly, and I have grown and changed so much as a person. It was a huge transformation phase of my life. The non-profit project that my American teacher runs, not only pays for my education and living expenses, but also supports many others through high school, university and extra-curricular classes through his non-profit organization (www.smileproject.us).

Since leaving my family in the countryside it had always been my biggest dream to study abroad and I often dreamed that I was already there. Many people believed in me and helped me in so many ways to achieve that goal. They are the most amazing and inspiring people, and they made me the person I am today. I will never forget or take their contributions for granted. In March 2015, I got accepted to UWC Maastricht, the Netherlands on a full scholarship! All my hard work and the help of others paid off and I am living my dream to the fullest in Maastricht.

It is true that I worked hard striving for my dream, but if these people hadn't been there to believe in and support me when I was tired and I wanted to give up, I would not be where I am today. With the help that I got, and still get, from these people, I am deeply moved and inspired to pay it forward to my community by running this project. I also believe that anyone can be a changemaker in the world whether poor or rich. Guidance and funding is what they need. Family background should not stop anyone from getting to where they want to be. Passions and dreams are what matters the most.

I believe that when I make a difference in someone’s life, they will share it with others as well.