Please join our writing contest!

Logo-Sombath InitiativeThe Sombath Initiative is sponsoring a writing contest about issues in Laos. Any age or nationality can enter, but Lao youth are especially encouraged to apply.

Essays should be about any one of the following topics (Please select one topic only):

  • Sustainable development in Laos
  • Youth and education in Laos
  • Civil society in Laos

Entries should be in either Lao or English, and between 500 to 1,000 words (approximately 2-3 pages) in length.
Three prizes will be awarded for both Lao and English (six total prizes):

  • $300 for first prize
  • $200 for second prize
  • $100 for third prize

Following the philosopSombath-Bamboohy of Sombath Somphone, essays that are positive and inspiring will be given preference over those that are critical or negative.
Winning essays will be posted on the  website, Facebook and Google+ If contestants request, their name will not be included with the posting.

Entries must be sent to [email protected] no later than January 31st, 2016. Winning contestants will be notified by email.

Thank you, and we look forward to your thoughts!

Dear Sombath….from Amelia Merrick

Dear Sombath,

This is the second or third letter I’ve written to you. I was too afraid to send you the other ones, but now that I’m in Canada I am less fearful. Sombath, there is so much I would like to tell you about how you impacted my work.

Do you remember back in December 2012 when we had that dinner party at my house? It was a warm, starry evening. We had a lot of food and a few bottles of good wine. I was still new in my role and I shared with you that I felt discouraged because of the heavy reliance on an infrastructure-driven approach to development in Laos. To me, it felt like there was very little space for community members, let alone children to be part of their own development journey and I didn’t see that change could be possible.

But by the time that the food was eaten, the clattering of forks stilled and the last drops of wine were drunk, you changed my opinion and gave me hope. You told me that change was possible and you encouraged me that children and youth must be part of the story. Honestly, I was skeptical… but you were right!

There are no words to describe the trauma and loss we felt when just ten days after our dinner party you were disappeared.   I remain thankful to God that I had that beautiful dinner with you. At the time I didn’t realize it, but that dinner changed my life and changed the way I would approach my work in Laos. Continue reading “Dear Sombath….from Amelia Merrick”

Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (8)

My dearest Sombath,

books-for-children-2006bToday is Father’s Day. I keep thinking of you on this day. You always say that even though we do not have any children of our own, it really does not matter, because you are always surrounded by children and young people through the Young Volunteers’ program that you started in PADETC. You keep reminding me that the young volunteers are like your children, and since we do not have children of our own, you can spend more time working with other people’s children and help guide them and challenge them to think, and direct their energy and creativity in a productive way.

Sombath, you truly love and relate very well with children. You believe that children and young people are special and that the growing-up years are the most important years of their lives. Those are the years you say are critical for developing their values and their world-view for the future. You also believe that learning in schools and from books alone is not enough; children and young people need to learn also from real life and real experiences outside of the classroom. Continue reading “Dear Sombath…from Shui Meng (8)”

Our young Lao volunteers

This award is also for our young Lao volunteers and youth leaders, who have demonstrated to us, the adults, that they have the capacity, and indeed the right, to claim the space to determine their own and their community’s development pathway. I believe that it is their passion and their hopes and dreams for a better future which are recognized and celebrated through this prestigious award today.

Sombath Somphone, in his response upon receiving the Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2005.

Sombath ‘offers youth a role model’

Bangkok Post: 17 December 2014

Laos would be more culturally dignified and have more active young citizens if Sombath Somphone had not gone missing two years ago, according to a seminar held on Monday to mark the anniversary of the activist’s disappearance.

Surichai Wun’gaeo, director of Chulalongkorn’s Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies, said Mr Sombath was not only a citizen of Laos but a regional asset, since he was recognised with a Magsaysay award in 2005.

“He cares for his nation and the whole region and brings a subtle approach and compassion,” Mr Surichai, one of Mr Sombath’s long-time friends, told the “If the World Didn’t Have Enforced Disappearances” seminar.

Premrudee Daoruang, coordinator of the Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, said Mr Sombath’s main focus was energising young people about sustainable agriculture to boost their cultural independence and reject materialistic goals.

“During my 20 years of working with Brother Sombath, I noticed he tried many approaches and worked with all types of people at provincial and national levels,” said Ms Premrudee. Continue reading “Sombath ‘offers youth a role model’”

Nature & Materialism

Sombath-bamboo-02Our children have no time to exercise their innate curiosities and capacities to explore their world and its links with nature. They have no encouragement to develop their innate emotions of love and care of life and for nature. Time spent by children for nature walks and studying in the open are now replaced by spending time either in extra tuition classes (more cramming and rote learning), in shopping malls, in digital gaming parlors, or in front of the TV. The models of success for children are largely determined by what money can buy. No wonder, their aspirations are all geared around materialism and short-term gratification, and eventually mindless greed.

Sombath, from Talking Points for panel discussion at FCCT in Bangkok, Thailand, 10 November 2008

Let the Young People Work on It

sombath_fishing_skillsThe most effective way of bringing about holistic education is the participation of young people in designing the future of our education and pattern of development. Young people themselves are more open-minded to new ideas and behaviors and should take ownership in designing their own future. We, adults, are not their future. We, adults, have broken the world. And we do not know how to fix it. So let the young people work on it. We can use our wisdom, not greed, and compassion to guide and mentor them.

Sombath, in “Interconnectedness for Happiness Together,” Asian Public Intellectuals Newsletter, March-August 2012.


Listening to the youth


Mr Sombath said our greatest hope is listening to the youth and listening to the children. He said the children in Laos are very smart and they have great ideas and want to be a part of the change in Laos.

Laos kids express hope for the future through images” MindaNews: 07 September 2013