Uncovering the wall of poverty: how Yuki changes the fate of her family by accessing quality education

Changemakers - Laos - Yuki
Wednesday, May 17, 2023

For 9-year-old Yuki, reading is more than a skill: it is a power to change the fate of her parents and six other siblings in Laos. 

The Grade 3 student lives in a remote community in Thapangthong district, Savannakhet province. Her family is part of the most vulnerable households in the village, living a few kilometres away from the central community hub. This situation deprives the girl and her family of facilities and supplies like latrines and electricity. Accessing water is a question of luck, whether the pump installed to the nearest stream brings it or not. 

Yuki's parents, Mr. Watt and Mrs. Houn, are sometimes unable to make ends meet, with small incomes through daily labour for the father. At the same time, Houn spends most of her time caring for her seven children. Unfortunately, the couple has limited ways to support their daughter and six other children's education when food is not always on the table all year round: "Sometimes we can't earn any income to buy things, and have to exchange our chicken with neighbours for rice" says her father. 

The economic hardships Lao rural households face directly impact their ability to provide financial support for their children's education. With an already precarious situation in terms of quality of education and access to secondary schoolCOVID-19 and the current economic crisis have indeed inflicted an additional severe hit to the education of girls and boys from rural communities, with families cutting down their education budgets to ensure the basic, survival needs for the household.

Despite all these challenges and the uncertainty of the future, change is possible. 9-year-old Yuki is showing that accessing quality education can change her family's fate and break the poverty cycle for her parents, brothers, and sisters. Over the past three years, Yuki joined the iREAD project's activities led by World Vision with the support of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Yuki demonstrated outstanding capacities in learning the Lao language. She was our best student for Grade 3 and was showing better results in reading than some Grade 5 students," says Keodavone Phaiphiboune, Deputy Project Manager for iREAD.

I'm excited to join the reading group activities, and I like to borrow the books from the school to read at home with my family - says Yuki

As a symbol of this change, Yuki received some of the materials from the project. She started decorating her house's wooden walls, creating her own space to keep learning and sharing what she knew with her family, even after the project ended. 

Yuki is a reflection of the successful impact of the iREAD project on the lives of the most vulnerable children of Thapangthong, where 44% of the Grade 3 students can read the Lao language with comprehension (against 5% back in 2020) and where only 1% of students dropped out of their learning journey (compared to 8.8% in the entire district). 

While the future is uncertain, Yuki has certainly been a changemaker for her family. When World Vision staff asked Yuki's parents about their current situation, Mrs. Houn fell into tears of joy:

I am so grateful for the support of the iREAD project [...] now my children education materials that will help them keep on learning.

Out of his thoughts in the past years, Mr. Watt is now encouraged to prioritize his children's education: "I want them to complete at least secondary school," he says.

As Yuki proved the importance of accessing quality education to her parents, the way is now paved for her siblings to follow her in the journey of saying goodbye to poverty.