Geoff Rhodes has visited his daughter-in-law Lea’s family in Laos multiple times over the past six years. If it’s not Geoff, another member of the Rhodes family will make the annual trip from Sydney to Pakse in southern Laos to visit Lea’s relations.
The two families have shared a special bond since 2013, when a terrible plane crash in Laos killed all 49 passengers on board, including Geoff’s son Gavin and wife Lea, and their two children Jade, 3, and Manfred, 17 months.
“We wanted to maintain the relationship with Lea’s family, and they are equally keen to maintain it,” Geoff says. “They are a wonderful family.
“All my grandchildren have been to Laos at least once. They can’t speak Lao and the children over there can’t speak English but they get along.”
The last time Geoff visited Laos was in February 2019. He was greeted with a mighty embrace and joyous bellow from Lea’s elder brother at the airport.
“He screamed at the top of his voice ‘Geoff!’, ran across to me, picked me up and threw me four feet in the air,” Geoff says.
The pair had met many times before, but this was the first time Geoff had, literally, been swept off his feet.
The exuberant welcome was the start of a week-long trip where Geoff and three friends – Peter, Monica and John – (pictured above) were special guests at the opening of a community hall that the Rhodes family helped to build in a ChildFund-supported community in the country’s north.