Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Essay from Bouakham about learning English

Lao scholarship student Bouakham ( pictured) has written the essay below to help fellow students learn English...

How to learn to speak excellent English?
(Study smart Study less)

Learning foreign languages is very important and necessary these days, particularly English. Why? Because English is an international language that most people around the world use and learn as a second or a foreign language. English is not only used for communication, making new friends with different people from different countries, but it is also used for international business, education, and relevant with socio-economic development in our country. Moreover, English helps us to get better jobs, and learn new things. So, let’s learn English now.

As we see, English has four most important parts: reading, listening, writing and speaking. They are important and necessary skills which we should have in order to master English. All of them are involved in learning vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and how to use it. Yes, Speaking is one of the important parts in learning English that we have to master first. Of course, some of us still have difficulties in speaking English when we communicate with other people from different countries in real life. Let’s say, we have to think, translate into our own language, analyze the grammar first, and then we speak out in English. Do you think it is slow? Obviously, when we speak, we don’t have enough time to think and translate it. It’s different from writing because we have time and can write slowly, analyze the grammar and correct the mistakes. Sometimes we still don’t have confidence. We are afraid to make mistakes are shy. Even though I am writing this article, it doesn’t mean I am good at speaking English. My speaking isn’t fluent and excellent, but I would like to share with you some learning guides to speak excellent English. I am very happy to share these techniques with you. I also hope some of you already know them, but some may not.

Anyway, let’s learn and share ideas together whether they work or not. I got these techniques from A J Hoge, a great teacher, founder and director of Effortless English Club (San Francisco, California, USA). All of these techniques are very different and strange from the methods we use for learning English every day. These techniques mostly focus on improving English speaking and they also help us to learn grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and usage much better, faster and more effortless. There are many people who use these methods to improve their English learning, especially speaking. As a result the techniques work very well. That’s why I’d like to let you to try them. Change the ways you learn English and you will get good benefits. These techniques consist of seven rules for learning to speak English.
Here they are:

Rule 1: Always study phrases, not individual words.
Never study a single, individual word. When you find the new words, always write down the phrases they are in. A phrase helps us to remember and use it better and faster because it gives us more information of what we learn. We will understand and improve our grammar too when learning phrases.

Rule 2: Do not study grammar.
This rule is very strange, but it is very powerful and works. So, stop studying grammar because grammar gives us too much information and teaches us to think and over analyze. We learn and speak slowly. We should learn like a native speaker without grammar study.

Rule 3: Listen first.
This is one of the important rules for speaking fluent English. We have to learn with ears, not eyes. Well, it means we have to listen to understand English. We must listen to English every day if we want to speak excellent English. Listening also helps us to learn vocabulary and grammar much more automatically.

Rule 4: Slow, deep learning is best.
Well, deep learning means repeating what we learn again and again until we remember and never forget it. So we have to learn every word and phrase deeply. “Learn deeply Speak easily.” Then speaking will become automatic and easier without thinking.

Rule 5: Use point of view mini-stories.
Point of view mini-stories are the most powerful way to learn and use English grammar easily and automatically. That’s why we use mini-stories for automatic grammar study. We should learn grammar by listening to real English and listening to the same story told by different people (point of view): past, present, and future tenses.

Rule 6: Only use real English lessons and materials.
In fact, we have to learn real English if we want to understand native speakers and speak easily, fast. So use real magazines, audio articles, TV shows, movies, radio talk shows and audio books for learning English. “Learn real English not textbook English.”

Rule 7: Listen and answer, not listen and repeat.
Hey! This is the last rule and a very powerful way to speak English fast. As we know, we use listen and repeat in school, right? But this rule is to listen and answer a lot of questions. So, let’s learn to answer questions without thinking and our English becomes automatic and fast.

That’s all the seven rules for learning to speak excellent English. Remember that these techniques focus on fluent English mainly, not academic English. If we want to specialize in linguistics or academic English, we have to use different methods. If you want more information, you can find it at ( Thanks so much!

“Good luck & enjoy your studies”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bora writes about the Microfinance Project

In this post project manager Bora explains more about his project...

The project is operating in 6 villages surrounding JWOC, so that poor people around JWOC can get benefit from this project. The poor populations in these villages are combined of people who based here and people moved from difference places around Cambodia to find jobs and make business. Most of people in these villages make an earning from jobs such as construction workers, firm security guard and some own a small business such as small grocery store, secondhand clothes, recycling collector, sewing, food cart, and selling vegetable. The majority of our borrowers are poor people living on illegal land with an old thatch house, others rent a small house.

To retrench and expand their businesses, there is one major issue related to funding. Unfortunately, the bank system and microfinance institution in Cambodia needs a form of collateral and also literacy to fill in the application form. In addition money lenders charge a high interest rate (10-15% per month). Due to these problems, JWOC works on credit facilitation via providing small loan.
The Microfinance Project has been providing loan to small business owners (over 90% is women) since 2006 and aims to give them the opportunity to retrench and expand their existing small businesses so that they can increase the income and bring their businesses to the next level. The loan comprises of basic practical training on budgeting, bookkeeping and business planning to the borrowers, so that they can use that knowledge to make a growth in their businesses and get a comparative advantage.
Borrowers have to form a group and go through all selection processes and training sessions such as attending Info Night, Loan Application, and Business Visit. The successful applicants will participate in signing loan contract, baseline survey and attend budget and business planning training.

Besides providing loan and business training, we have Microfinance Plus activities that associated with Microfinance project works on 1) provides hygiene and filter training 2) provides free hygiene packs and option to buy a filter at a much subsidized cost according to first or second times borrowing.

From the impact assessment survey, we see the borrowers have increased income from businesses that supported by JWOC’s loan, improved of hygiene, food supplies, and savings as well as increased rate of sending children to school.
Next, I would like to update about capacity building activities as this is a key important resource for implementing the project. The Microfinance Project now has 21 volunteering students which eight of them just have joined with the team. This month is a busy month in training the new students ranging from general orientation to whole project.

I would like to say thank you to everyone that has supported the Microfinance Project.

Best wishes


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Importance of well repairs

This recent New York Times article is a great explanation of why just installing wells isn't enough. Alongside installing wells JWOC teaches villagers how to repair wells and also does repair and strengthening work on existing wells, whoever first installed them.

Read the article below or go to to see complete with picture and links!

December 8, 2011, 9:30 PM
Keeping the Water Flowing in Rural Villages

Keeping projects in business for the long term has been a constant theme of the Fixes column, and if sustainability has a poster child, it would be a water pump. Travel anywhere in Africa or South Asia or Central America, and you will find a landscape dotted with the rusting skeletons of dead water pumps or wells..

In most developing countries, these water points are installed with great fanfare by the government or a charitable group. They greatly improve the lives of villagers. Having a water point in or near the village means that women don’t have to spend 6,8, even 12 hours a day on perilous journeys to fetch water from rivers or lakes. The pumps allow girls to go to school instead of staying home to help their mothers fetch water or take care of siblings. They allow villagers to drink reasonably clean water instead of risking their health with every sip.

Then something breaks on the pump — a huge catastrophe like an underground pipe bursting, or a small one, like the loss of a bolt or a washer. And it never works again.

Early death is shockingly widespread for water pumps. Perhaps the biggest study of this ever was carried out in 21 African countries by an organization called Sustainable Water Services at Scale. It found that 36 percent of pumps were not working. “This level of failure represents a waste of between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in investments in 20 years,” said the organization.

In Tanzania, mapping of water points showed that nationally, less than half the existing rural water points were working. Of water points that were less than two years old, a quarter had already stopped functioning.

Why, when communities benefit so obviously from water, do so many water points fall out of use? The short answer is that keeping the pumps running usually falls to the community or local government. But it requires specialized skills, spare parts, tools and funds. None of these are found in rural villages.

One group taking a hard look at how to solve the problem is the British-based charity WaterAid. When the organization analyzed why water points failed in Tanzania, it found something interesting: the most sustainable were those maintained by private contractors. This is not a ready-made solution; it won’t work everywhere — really poor areas won’t be able to pay. And in some regions, problems like price gouging were associated with private operators. But WaterAid felt it might be able to solve these problems. So in the north of India, it came up with an ingenious way to do just that.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India — it is also one of the poorest and most drought-prone. The government has been aggressively installing new water pumps, but they quickly fall into disuse. In the Mahoba district, south of the state capital of Lucknow, there are about 12,500 community water pumps, said. K.J. Rajeev, WaterAid’s general manager for the northern region of India. “But 40 percent of them are usually down, especially in summer,” he said. And when they break, they stay broken — three-quarters of the repairs take at least a month, and many are never repaired at all.

Now things are different in Mahoba. In May, Lisa Millman, WaterAid America’s director of development and communications, was visiting a town called Charkhari. She was sitting in a small storefront office, a shop lined with shelves of hand pump parts, when a cellphone rang. The call was from the village of Kotedar, where the main hand pump had broken. A master mechanic took the call and asked some questions. This was apparently going to be a big job — five mechanics piled onto two motorbikes, along with the 10-year-old son of one of the men. They reached the village 20 minutes later. As a throng of villagers watched, they took out huge wrenches. They disassembled the pump and began pulling up heavy segments of pipe. At the tenth segment they found a hole and patched it. Two and a half hours after they arrived, the pump was reassembled and working. They got on their bikes and rode off into the sunset.

Millman, who had followed in a car, had asked the 10-year-old if he wanted to be a mechanic like his dad. “He was smirking and laughing,” she said. “But after he watched his dad repair the pump, he was in awe.”

WaterAid and its local partners have set up four workshops, called Community Participation Centers, in the Mahoba district, and the project is now expanding into the neighboring state of Bihar. A call to the workshop reaches a master mechanic. He or she can choose the appropriate mechanics in the group, depending on location and skills, to send to address the problem. Each is is equipped with a cellphone, tool kit and a bike, moped or motorbike. Including mechanics-in-training and several who work part time, the centers have 27 female mechanics.

Many of the women were landless agricultural laborers before they learned hand pump repair, and many were members of the Dalit, or Untouchable, caste — the most downtrodden in Indian society. In a very traditional region, where women cover their faces and do not speak in public, it was at first hard to find women who wanted the job. Even some who completed the training didn’t want to go out to villages and work in public, said Rajeev. Now, however, wherever they go, village men accept them and women embrace them. Seeing a mechanic in yellow hardhat and sari has opened up the spectrum of possibilities for village women.

In 14 months of work, the center mechanics have repaired more than 1,100 pumps in Mahoba. Ninety-three percent of the repairs were made within 24 hours of the phone call, and only 3 percent took more than two days. A simple repair costs a village 100 rupees — roughly $2.00 — with more complex repairs costing up to $6. Water quality testing costs $1.20. The mechanics guarantee all work.

Rajeev said that the four Mahoba workshops cost WaterAid about $40,000 to set up — to train mechanics, buy parts and tools, provide bikes and cellphones and visit village councils to promote the new service. But now WaterAid is tapering off financial support to the workshops, which are all operating sustainably and on the verge of meeting their profitability goals. “We will be providing only technical assistance and hand-holding,” he said. To keep the workshops running, the mechanic keeps 70 to 90 percent of the repair fee and deposits the rest in the workshop’s account.

This isn’t the first time WaterAid tried to train mechanics in the area. In 2004, its local partner recruited men and women and trained them to do preventive maintenance and minor repairs in their own villages. It didn’t last. The trainees learned only the most basic repairs and often had to leave work incomplete. They also earned very little money. So WaterAid then decided it needed to create a real business, using high standards of training, aggressive outreach to village governments and attractive practices like guaranteed work.

Why couldn’t the market take care of this problem? There are hand pump mechanics in Mahoba, after all. But they tend to live in major market cities. Rajeev said they demanded very high fees to go out to remote villages — often too high for villages to pay. There are also information disconnects – they do no outreach to villages, so some village councils don’t know about these mechanics or how to call them.

The market also can’t finance major repairs — most villagers are too poor. The center program can work because the government has a fund that village councils can use to pay for hand pump maintenance. The fund can take 45 days to pay — too long for most traditional mechanics. Center mechanics, however, don’t mind. (Very minor repairs can usually be paid on the spot.) And now four villages have signed maintenance contracts with center workshops, paying directly from the government’s fund.

What’s happening in Mahoba is promising. But the key to this process is that the Indian government pays the bills. In the places where this problem is most serious, government is AWOL. On Wednesday I’ll look at why it has been so difficult to keep water points running, mistakes that water groups have made and what poor villages might do to keep the water flowing.

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