Out and about with Team Leader Thongkham

‘My name is Thongkham (I’m known as Kiao) and I started working in Peuan Mit in 2005 as a social worker in the prevention team, driving and doing activities with the mobile school. People always thought I was a doctor, I was very good at first aid for them!  Now I’m team leader of the Prevention, Outreach and Drop in Center team, eight people altogether.

I’m from the south of Laos and often when foreign visitors come to the project they say they can speak Lao but most of the time they don’t understand me! There are 12 people in my family, my wife, my two sons and my relatives who come to study from the provinces.

Every day I wake up at 5:30am, I feed my duck and chicken, pump the water into the tank, wake my two sons and shower my youngest son. Then I take my sons by bike 12km away to the hospital where my wife prepares breakfast for us. I have a parking business at the hospital and so my wife takes care of them at night and during the day she works as a hospital official. I then have to take my sons and one nephew to school before I go to work at 8am.

Every Monday morning I join the team leader meeting so that we can share what happened last week and plan for the week ahead with the other six team leaders, two trainers, my Country Program Director (CPD) and the Technical Advisor (TA). Then I share that information to my team on Tuesday morning and schedule the work plan with my team for the week.

I have to be very flexible because I’m in charge of three activities and when my staff are away I have to be able to replace them.  Here’s an example of what we (and I) do each week:

  • The mobile school – Monday afternoons goes to Nongbeuk community and Thursday morning km 36 (the garbage dump).
  • Outreach on the street with my staff.
  • Special activities for children in communities and on the street in the Drop In Center (DIC) every Thursday afternoon or organize regular activity with children coming in to the DIC.
  • Work as a case manager. I have 5 cases and most of them are in the provinces so I have to travel far. When my colleagues have new cases that need information or assessment I sometimes assist as a case worker.
  • Every three months organize, undertake and finalize the ‘snap shot survey’ (these are regular one day surveys of the situation of street living/working children in the city).
  • When we have or receive information about new communities in need then I need to organize a community needs survey and undertake it with my team before we start any activity in the new village.
  • Sometimes I have to be the house father at the transitional home when they need male staff during the staff public holidays or when regular staff takes leave or sick.
  • Because I used to be a monk, every time we need to hold a basi ( a blessing ceremony)for children’s reintegration, the new year or any traditional ceremony, then I am the Morphone (person who leads the basi).

I also participate in outside meetings and training within the project and then I work in the office the rest of the time as I need to collect reports from my sub teams and enter all the data into the computer and report to the CPD, TA and the ministry counterpart.

I also have two English classes with five other colleagues in the office every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30-6:30 after work.

If I’m not doing activities with my team then I finish work at 5pm. After work I go to look after the parking business at the hospital, have dinner there and then go back home to Somsanga village at 9pm with my two sons.

On the weekend I have time with all of my family together. Sometimes my wife or I cook, I like to eat Lap but my children like to have western food like KFC or fire rice. Some weeks we go to basi and other traditional ceremonies at friend’s houses, or meet up with Peuan Mit staff, go to the village rocket festival, or walk with my children along the Mekong River and picnic at the water fall.

I love my family, and my hope is life will get even better and I really want my children to have higher education or study abroad.’

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