Dear Sombath…from Lisa ter Woort

Dear Sombath,

I’ve just completed a trip to southern Lao PDR with my 13 year old twin daughters Rachel and Carly. I wanted to show my girls the country, and the people that have made such a lasting impression on me both personally and professionally. I had hoped to see you.

Its already been 17 odd years since I first arrived to Vientiane to work with CUSO on development issues in Lao. I remember, with absolute clarity, the first week in my role as country representive to CUSO Lao PDR. With Charlie Pahlman as my mentor, I was provided with an extensive overview of the organizations and individuals who would become the network I came to rely on in our work to make a difference in Lao.

I met you that first week in the whirlwind of meetings. We drove around the dust covered streets in that yellow volkswagon bug. Charlie was driving somewhat erratically, as he always liked to make effusive points using both hands!  So many passionate people, both from Lao and around the world, many who would contribute to and influence my work in Lao. It was a fabulous time, united in the belief that we were making a difference through the work we undertook together.

At that time you were Regional Advisor to the CUSO Lao Program. Thank you so much for being there for me and for CUSO in the beginning. Your calm and optimistic demeanour still sits with me as I remember the many times you generously shared your experiences and offered direction to me, the new person on the block. I felt welcome by you to the big task at hand.

I wasn’t sure what I would find on my return to Lao.  And in fact, I decided not to go back to Vientiane. A deliberate choice. Call me absurd, but I wanted to keep my memories of that place and time untouched – Memories of a time when everything seemed possible. Dust covered roads and big dreams…

I want for you to be safe. To return home to your family.

Lao was a better place, knowing that you were still there.

With fondest warm wishes,

Lisa ter Woort
Elmira, Ontario, Canada