On April 24, 2015 the Information Resource Center, U.S. Embassy Vientiane organized an Earth Day celebration in cooperation with Seeds of Hope Laos at the American Corner at the Lao American College. During this event the Assistant Public Affairs Officer, Lucija Straley gave the opening speech and asked students about the history of Earth Day. Over 80 local high school students learned about Earth day, and about environmental challenges throughout the world. They participated in a fun-filled day of educational activities.
The head of the Political and Economic Section, Michael Toyryla, spoke with the students about U.S. involvement in environmental issues, both globally and in Laos. The discussion touched on broad topics such as climate change, and water scarcity issues, but the main focus was on pressing environmental issues in Laos, such as illegal wildlife trafficking, the protection of indigenous biodiversity, and the effect of hydropower development on the Mekong River. Following the active discussion, students were shown Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on the Earth Day celebration in Washington DC. and a video about Lao US Alumni who visited the Earth Day celebration in Washington DC.
Following the film, Seeds of Hope Laos, a local volunteer group that consists of many Alumni from US exchange programs, gave a community-focused presentation on the importance of recycling plastic bags, and other materials. The students were then broken into groups, and each group developed an Environmental Action Plan for their community. Each group presented their plan to a judge from the U.S. Embassy, and the top presentations received prizes.
The program was very productive, and it was clear that the students were eager to learn, and share their ideas on environmental issues, particularly in their own communities.