The villagers know her as “the Little One.” Two years ago, Pamoxong was very shy and unenthusiastic about school. She knew her family was desperate for money and that her father would soon ask her to drop out to help support the family just like he’d asked her older siblings.
Today you would hardly recognize that once quiet girl except by her slight stature. Though she is still little in size, now she is a giant in her community for her advocacy for education.
The transformation began when she enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program. In the “life skills” classes, she was encouraged to speak her mind, and to share her thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams with the other girls. In the safe environment of these classes, Pamoxong eventually started to open up. And when she did, what emerged was confidence and ambition.
“I can now say, out loud, with confidence, that I will get my high school education and eventually become the most capable female physician in my village to serve my family and other sick people in our community.” And in case you doubt her, she’ll quickly set you straight. “This is not just a dream. I will make sure it becomes a reality.”
Pamoxong is not just convinced of the value of education in her own life, she’s determined to convince everyone in her village as well. Pamoxong actually plays a crucial role as a little “lobbyist” for education because she is also able to translate between the local ethnic language, Hmong, and the national Lao language. Many villagers in the town have never learned the Lao language, which poses a challenge for Room to Read staff who speak Lao. Especially in crucial times when Room to Read social mobilizers are paying visits to families with daughters at risk of dropping out. This is where Pamoxong has special role to play. Paxomong is not only a great translator, she’s also famously persuasive.
Pamoxong convinces her friends and her friends’ parents that they should stay in school and be a part of the Girls’ Education Program. “I’m so lucky to be her friend,” says her classmate Padalya, who Pamoxong persuaded to stay in school even when she was thinking about dropping out because of a difficult family situation. “She talked to me and my parents about the many opportunities I would get from the Girls’ Education Program. I always thank her for cheering me and my parents to make that decision.”
However, the first parents Pamoxong persuaded were her own. With a new perspective on education, Pamoxong’s father, who has six children, now feels incredible remorse for asking his two eldest to drop out to work on the farm and earn money for the family. “Not a single day goes by that I do not feel regret about asking my children to quit school,” he says. Although those two have not returned to school to reclaim the educational opportunity they sacrificed, I will never be able to erase the guilt because I know that they would have wanted to continue schooling to become someone else that they dream to be…not just a poor farmer.”
He is comforted knowing that with the support of Room to Read, Pamoxong will graduate. “She will grow up with an education. I promise that. And, I will do my best to support all of my kids’ education as high as they dream to go,” he says.
Paxomong’s mother also wants more for her children that what she knew growing up. “I do not want my kid to live like me, work hard, and barely understand Lao language although I have lived in Lao for entire life because I did not get chance to attend school when I was young. My parents told me that studying was not necessary for a girl. Going to school was all boys’ business. Now everything has changed.” She is so thankful that all of her kids can go to school no matter what gender they are.
Since Paxomong found her voice, this little one has had a big impact.
Learn more about our work in in Laos and our Girls’ Education Program.