In the village, many people call Pamoxong “the little one,” in reference to her height and slight frame, but friends say that the nickname is misleading given her big personality.
Now 13 years old, Pamoxong is in 7th grade and on her second year of support from Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program. Formerly a shy, uncertain student, she has enthusiastically joined all of the life skills training sessions provided by the program and says they have helped her find her voice.
“I can now say out loud with confidence that I will get a full education so that I can become the most capable female physician in my village,” she shares proudly. “It is not only a dream; I will make it come true.”
According to Pamoxong’s social mobilizer (mentor), Thiphavanh, “her generous and active personality, smiling face and persuasive words are Pamoxong’s most featured characteristics.” Since joining the program herself, the “little one” has become a powerful advocate for girls’ education within her community.
Pamoxong’s village in Oudomxay, Laos is populated primarily by Hmong people, an ethnic minority in the country. For Pamoxong’s family, and many of their neighbors, the barriers to education are even greater than for the rest of the country, as many in the Hmong community cannot speak fluently in the Lao national language.
“Pamoxong is a crucial motivator who helps us translate between Hmong and the Lao language,” says Thiphavanh. “She convinces parents in the community to value education and send their daughters to school."
Thiphavanh’s sentiments are echoed by Padaiya, one of Pamoxong’s good friends. “When Room to Read visited my house to meet my parents, Pamoxong was the real behind-the-scenes lobbyist," says Padaiya. "She talked to me and my parents about the opportunities I would get from joining the program.”
A few months into the school year, Padaiya considered dropping out because of her family’s financial situation, but once again Pamoxong was there to encourage her friend to keep going. “I think I’m so lucky to be her friend,” says Padaiya with a smile.
In her own family, Pamoxong’s newfound commitment to education has had an incredible impact as well. The third-born in a family of six children, she has seen the consequences of a lack of education, as her older sibling both dropped out of school to help earn money for the family.
Her father, Mr. Tong, says that after seeing his daughter succeed he is now committed 100 percent to keeping his other children in school, too. “I will do the best to support them as high as they dream to go,” he says.
Ms. Xia, Pamoxong’s mother, can only speak Hmong, but doesn’t let the language barrier stop her from sharing her perspective through her daughter’s careful translations. “I do not want my child to live like me, to work hard and barely understand Lao language because I did not get chance to attend school,” she says. “My parents told me that studying was not necessary for a girl—that it was a guy’s business, but now everything has changed.”
With newfound confidence, a clear path forward and the support of her family, it seems that this “little one” is poised to accomplish some very big things.
Learn more about our work in Laos.