Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Rugby changed my life

UPDATE 15 Dec 2014: Congratulations to Lao Kang who has been selected by The Foundation for Global Sports Development to receive an Athletes in Excellence Award for her extraordinary work with children and youth, and growing the sport of rugby in Nonghet, Laos!

Lao Kang is a young woman from Nonghet district in the rural north of Laos, who was introduced to the world of sport through ChildFund Laos’ sport for development activities. Through extraordinary determination, commitment and grace, Lao has developed skills and experiences that have seen her move rapidly into a position with the Lao Rugby Federation as their Development Officer, which includes coordinating ChildFund Laos` sport for development outreach activities in Nonghet, as well as providing training for schools and institutions in Vientiane.

In less than three years, Lao has become a role model for young women in Nonghet and is an example of the power of sport to effect change for young women in rural areas. She has represented the Lao Women’s National Rugby team and is committed to sharing her experiences of sport in her life and why she believes sport is important for girls and women in rural and remote communities.

“ChildFund Laos is very proud of Lao Kang receiving this award and it is well deserved, reflecting Lao`s commitment to herself, her community and her sport. She has excelled as a leader and is a role model for countless young women and girls in her community, and has shown them a new range of possibilities for their futures,” says ChildFund Laos country director Chris Mastaglio.

“We are also thankful to our Lao Rugby Federation partners who have provided Lao Kang with an opportunity that she has grasped with both hands to develop her language, IT, coaching and leadership skills; these skills will benefit her long into the future. Lao has also coped with the challenges of moving away from home and working in a cross-cultural environment with an extraordinary level of confidence and capability. All of the staff at ChildFund Laos would like to wish Lao the very best for the future and we hope she will inspire more leaders in her community and country.”

Lao’s story:

My name is Lao Kang. I am 21 years old and I live in Nonghet district, Laos. There are seven people in my family, my parents, my two older brothers who help my parents with our small farm, and my two younger sisters who are at school. We are H`mong, which is an ethnic group living in the mountainous areas of Laos.

I started school when I was 8 years old and finished in grade five when I was 13 years old. When I first started school we had a teacher who spoke H`mong, so I could understand everything and really enjoyed going to school. Though, from grade two we had a teacher who only spoke Lao. This meant I would go to school and listen but I couldn`t understand what the teacher was saying. Language barriers pose a real problem for many children in my country.

I left school to help my father and mother in our field. Each day I would wake up at 4 o`clock in the morning to help with farming activities and preparing food for my family. We would walk one-and-a-half hours each day from our home to the field where we would plant rice and corn.

One day ChildFund Laos brought a group of women from the Lao Rugby Federation to our village as part of their sport for development activities. They introduced us to rugby – a sport I had never seen or heard of before. I thought it looked interesting and I decided that if these women could do it, I could too!

The first time I caught and ran with a ball felt amazing. I had never done anything like this before. It was so much fun learning how to play rugby with other young girls.

First I was asked to become a ChildFund rugby youth leader in my village. I then applied and was selected to train as a rugby coach. I went to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, to learn how to become a coach. This gave me the opportunity to meet and play rugby with girls from all over Laos. I am proud to say that I have now been a rugby coach for one year!

Through my work as a coach, I was chosen to represent my country in the Lao Women`s National Rugby team. My family were very proud of me. My team and I travelled to Thailand to participate in a regional rugby competition. This was the first time I had ever left Laos to play rugby.

There were many different countries at the competition and many big players, which made me feel very nervous. We all realised that Lao people are very small! It was a difficult competition but I really enjoyed representing my country.

Currently I am working as an intern for the Lao Rugby Federation in Vientiane, learning about the sport of rugby and coordinating monthly, sport for development` outreach activities in Nonghet with ChildFund. I have learnt that rugby is an exciting way to educate children. When we play games we also teach them about things such as the importance of hand-washing, manners and respect for elders and friendship.

As a girl I was always very shy. Now I am a brave and confident young woman. Before I began playing rugby I only knew people in my small village. Now I have friends all around the world.

I want to help involve as many Lao girls and women from rural and remote communities as possible in rugby so they too can feel brave and strong.

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