U.S. Ambassador Visits Southern Provinces

U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter visited American health and education projects and met with government officials during her trip to Sekong, Salavan, and Champasak Provinces on May 9-10.

In Sekong Province, Ambassador Bitter visited Chung Hung Nuea School and Kok Hai School where she handed over school supplies and enjoyed lunch with the students who students receive nutritious meals through the U.S. Government’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program implemented by the World Food Programme.  The United States has contributed nearly $100 million over 10 years through the McGovern-Dole program in Laos, which benefits almost 200,000 children throughout the country.  Providing school meals has helped boost attendance in school and decreased dropout rates, improving students’ opportunities to receive an education.

“By supporting programs that keep children in school and keep them focused on learning, we are investing in the long-term economic and social development of Laos,” said Ambassador Bitter.

Beyond providing school meals the McGovern-Dole program, builds school kitchens, establishes libraries, provides books, offers pedagogical training to teachers, and creates school gardens. Through the Local and Regional Purchase Program, also funded by U.S. government, school meals will be linked to local agriculture production.  The program aims at building the capacity of smallholder farmers, particularly women, increasing their production and creating a local market for their products.  Since schools will be procuring their fresh foods, in the long-term this will lead to greater community ownership and sustainability.

While in Champasak, Ambassador Bitter also visited Jhai Coffee House, where she met with the American founder of the philanthropic coffee organization, Tyson Adam. Jhai coffee educates farmers on specialty coffee practices, purchases directly from farmers and invests 100 percent of net profits into the community to build clean water pumps and improve the health of Lao children through hygiene education projects.