Environmental Education in Laos: Learning with Head, Hand and Heart

At the beginning of 2016, I could not have imagined the experiences I would gain in 2016. As a media producer I always wanted to combine my creative work with social aspects. During travels in Asia in 2013, I fell in love with Laos, its people and wonderful nature. This is why I was more

than lucky to find out about ProCEEd while searching for a topic for my Master’s thesis in Media and Education. Only a few emails later, I was invited to join the project for a five-month internship.

 

From day one, I learned a lot about the project's specific approaches. ProCEEd uses the advantages of different types of media to make people share and understand environmental message. Because of its high dependence on natural resources, Laos is strongly affected by the effects of climate change. The changes do not only influence agriculture but are also a threat to the livelihoods of the rural population who strongly depend on healthy ecosystems. In 2012, a survey on environmental awareness revealed that most of the Lao citizens in Vientiane, Khammouane, Houaphan and Sayaboury know very little about biodiversity and environment-related subjects. That was the starting point for the ProCEEd project.

Together with the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion (DEQP) at MoNRE, ProCEEd aims at raising awareness on environmental protection issues in Laos. From the start, the project team always had a major question in mind: How can we make environmental education informative, interesting, easy to understand and fun at the same time? To this end, the project team developed non-formal environmental education methods and materials and media products embedded in an Environment Education and Communication Strategy (EECS) to reach government officials and decision makers as well as the general public. From posters to comic books, films, TV and radio shows, theatre and puzzle games – the variety of the tools developed by the project are creative and versatile.

 

Through my studies, I know about the advantages of media use for educational purposes. Therefore, I am very interested in the project processes and was lucky to get insights into every step of the way - from a first idea to the final product. Working with Lao counterparts and all capacity building activities were very fascinating. I was not only able to attend meetings and different workshops such as the summer film school, theatre training and Environmental Tour preparation, but also contributed articles and films about ProCEEd's work.

 

I learned a lot of lessons from both the successes and setbacks of my internship. There can always be unpredictable barriers such as cultural differences, bureaucracy, an unhappy counterpart or the language barrier in rural areas. Those are issues you are to experience when working in Laos, and you will never learn about in any classroom. And the experience will teach you to be more far-sighted.

 

One main highlight of my internship was accompanying the Environmental Tour about wildlife protection to the rural areas of Laos. The project acquired two vehicles, a bus and a truck, for these non-formal education tours. Experiencing this beautiful but challenging region and seeing the dedicated work of the volunteers was fascinating. Interested villagers asked many question in the discussion groups, children’s eyes lit up when they got their new comic books, laughter filled the air during games and theatre plays – those reactions after many months of preparation were more than rewarding for all of us on the ProCEEd team.

 

Time flew by and today, almost five months into my Lao internship, I feel grateful for the experiences and insights I gained with GIZ in Laos. I do not regret postponing my Master's thesis at all. I am grateful to have been a part of a wonderful team that gave me many opportunities to learn and ask questions. I always felt respected as a valued team member who was allowed to contribute to the goals of the project. When back to a rainy German winter, writing my thesis about the benefits of film use for environmental education purposes - I will wish for warmer temperatures, for the first time in at least five months.

 

 

 


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