Sunday, January 15, 2006

Visit to Tamaakhung Centre

My dear friend, Xuyen Thi Dangers, actress*, cancer survivor and a social worker never fails to amaze me with her boundless energy. This time, I am so impressed to see her newly set up Tamaakhung Centre at Ban Simeuang, Vientiane. Tamaakhung means Papaya Salad. It is a drop-in centre for former drug addicts and local children in the heart of Vientiane to fill their time with pottery work, batik, music and poetry. Her young protege, Bounmy, who just came back from Vietnam with her social work degree is helping to run the centre.

I met Xuyen for the first time after 2 years since I left Laos in 2003. The thing about Xuyen, you will fell under her "spell" the moment you meet her. In fact, within minutes after we met, she already asked me to teach the teens how to juggle. So, I did. Teaching Soukasem and Ket, two young men, from the neighbourhood known for its drug problem and high crime rate, to juggle.

Perhaps it is a simple skills they could easily learn, but the time they spent away from drugs is priceless.

Tamaakhung (Papaya Salad) Centre, Ban Simeuang, Vientiane

From left: Xuyen Thi Dangers, me, Soukasem, Ket, Perry Smith from CWS America

Soukasem, former drug addict turned craftsman

Dragon from clay and recyclables made by Soukasem and friends

* Bright Shining Lie (1998) and Oliver Stone's Heaven & Earth (1993)

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