Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Seventeen-year-old Khied (pictured above) remembers the haunting sound of people crying in pain after a devastating flood destroyed her village this year.

The teen from Attapeu Province, in southern Laos, was getting ready for bed when everything suddenly turned dark and water came gushing into the house.

“I heard a sound like wind and the power in the whole village went off,” Khied says. “I woke my younger brother and sister up and prepared to leave.”

For Khied, the flood – which resulted after the collapse of a dam in Attapeu in July 2018 – was the “most terrible nightmare imaginable”.

After their home was destroyed, she remembers being dragged out with her brother and sister by the force of the water, to the forest.

It was five days before they saw their parents again.

“During the flood, I told my sister and brother to hold onto a tree so we would not float away,” Khied recalls. “There was so much debris like roofs, and logs and rocks that hit us.

“I had to stay alert and take care of my brother and sister so they wouldn’t be scared.”

The siblings ended up on a mountain in the forest, where they stayed overnight.

The next day, Khied saw the extent of the devastation. Debris was floating everywhere and there wasn’t a house in sight.

“I could only hear the sounds of people, injured and crying,” she says.

“I tried looking for my parents and calling out for them, but I didn’t see them anywhere.”

Growing up in Australia, playing sport was a given, although I never dreamed that I would end up a professional athlete, and especially not a rugby union player.

Having the opportunity to take part in organised sport is not something that is available to all children as I recently saw first hand during a trip to Laos with ChildFund.

In Nonghet Province, in the country’s north, sporting facilities are few and far between. This is a region that is also still recovering from the Vietnam war, with high levels of unexploded ordnance contamination making large areas of land unsafe.

The ChildFund Pass It Back rugby for development program is giving many young people here the opportunity to take part in tag rugby. It’s often the first time they’ve had the chance to play organised sport. Not only is this rugby for good program giving vulnerable children from developing communities to chance to play, but its unique curriculum also teaches young players about planning for the future, teamwork and gender equality.

The sheer joy on the kids’ faces in Laos was infectious. It really is a universal truth that every child loves to play! I was so touched to see how much these children treasure their involvement in rugby and embrace every minute on the field and with their teammates.

The experience really drove home to me that everyone should be able to give sport a go, whether they’re growing up in Laos or Australia, and everyone should be able to try rugby, whether they’re female or male.

What’s most impressive about ChildFund Pass It Back is the fact that over 50 per cent of the participants are girls and young women. Because it’s such a new sport in Laos, there are no pre-conceptions that it’s only a game for the boys.