U.S. Sponsors Volleyball Tournament for Cultural Exchange in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang – The U.S. government sponsored a volleyball tournament and cultural exchange event for high school students from the United States and the Lao PDR in Luang Prabang on July 19-20, 2018, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sport.

A visiting delegation of 25 players and coaches from San Diego, California traveled from the United States to cities in Vietnam and the Lao PDR, to play friendly matches, teach volleyball skills, learn about the cultural and local customs in the region, and promote cultural understanding.

“This sports tournament is one of the many ways we engage with Lao youth. It’s also an example of our commitment to the Comprehensive Partnership, and an expression of the friendship between our two countries,” said U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter, who traveled to Luang Prabang to give remarks during the opening ceremony.

A representative of the Ministry of Education and Sports also traveled to Luang Prabang to participate in the event.

The American students come from schools and sports teams in San Diego whose mission is to use sports as a way to reach out to and support at-risk youth.

Many players are part of Exodus Social Justice Volleyball Club, an organization founded on offering quality coaching to underprivileged youth. Other players attend Monarch High School in San Diego, which is the United States’ only public school exclusively for students who are homeless, at risk of being homeless, or impacted by homelessness.

For the U.S. team, this was the trip of a lifetime. Most had never left the United States before, and all were visiting Southeast Asia for the first time.

“I’m super excited, I’ve always wanted to travel to a different country, go on an airplane, and learn more about playing volleyball,” said Ammy Hernandez, a player from Monarch School.

The U.S. delegation was given a special welcome to the Lao PDR by five “cultural ambassadors” from Luang Prabang, who are all teenagers studying English at the local organization @MyLibrary.

“It makes me feel very excited to work with all of the visiting delegation, and we are happy to welcome them to the Lao PDR,” said Pane Heuangvilaisy, a former Buddhist novice who is now in his last year of high school, and works at @MyLibrary at night.

The program was made possible with funding from the U.S. government, through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was organized by the San Diego Diplomacy Council and the National Ability Center.

The San Diego Diplomacy Council connects San Diego to the rest of the world through professional, educational and cultural exchange programs. The National Ability Center empowers individuals of all abilities by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through sport, recreation and educational programs.