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About Lotus for Laos

Our purpose

We are passionate about being at service by empowering young Laotians to a self-determined life. We believe in a world where young Laotians are in charge of their own economic future and will therefore contribute to the development of their country. There is this saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”, but first one could ask him whether he likes fish. We take pride in our students who work really hard to break the circle of poverty all by taking their future into their own hands.  Our role is simply the one of the enabler, but as soon as they graduate they are able to charter their own course. We are convinced that education is one of the most powerful tools to achieve sustainable change. Presenting young Laotians with the opportunity to get a university degree enables them to change the system they are living in from the inside out.

About Lotus for Laos

Our purpose

We are passionate about being at service by empowering young Laotians to a self-determined life. We believe in a world where young Laotians are in charge of their own economic future and will therefore contribute to the development of their country. There is this saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”, but first one could ask him whether he likes fish. We take pride in our students who work really hard to break the circle of poverty all by taking their future into their own hands.  Our role is simply the one of the enabler, but as soon as they graduate they are able to charter their own course. We are convinced that education is one of the most powerful tools to achieve sustainable change. Presenting young Laotians with the opportunity to get a university degree enables them to change the system they are living in from the inside out.

Our values

Empowerment

“I do not believe in aid. I believe in empowerment and giving the people dignity and the ability to found their own economic future.” – Ritu Khanna Helping people can enable them to a quick start, but in the end they have the responsibility to make a change through their own behaviour.

Do no harm

A sad example for this is the creation of dependency on the given aid, through which the situation deteriorates over time. It is necessary to create awareness and critically think about possible consequences.

Participation

The key is involving the target group in order for them to contribute to the development of the project. Who knows the needs better than the people affected by them?

Esteem

“My biggest learning was to respect the culture of the country you are in. Crossing cultural boundaries does not get you anywhere.” – Andrew Brown While one can also have respect for an enemy, “Esteem” is a performance-independent term and describes a positive attitude towards the counterpart.

Facts about Laos

Capital

Vientiane

Life expectancy

Women 68, men 61

Surface area

236’800 km2

Currency

Kip (₭)

Population

About 6.49 million

Language

Lao
s

Child mortality

<1 year: 6.8%

GDP

15.9b USD (2016)

Laos facts

Capital

Vientiane

Life expectancy

Women 68, men 61

Surface area

236’800 km2

Currency

Kip (₭)

Population

About 6.49 million

Language

Lao
s

Child mortality

<1 year: 6.8%

GDP

15.9b USD (2016)

Franzisca Gartenmann

Communication

Hanna Ekberg

Marketing

Janos Benz

Finance

Isabel Ehrat

Strategy

Recognition

Scholarships for a better future

Our ongoing project “Scholarships for a better future” was initiated in 2014 and currently enables around 72 students to go to the local university in Luang Prabang, Laos.

2019

Our aim is to secure the extra support that allows our students to finalise their studies. To achieve this we’re seeking: further individual donations, other foundations that correspond with our goals, people that are willing to sponsor a student over the course of their studies and memberships for ongoing contributions. We are also looking for two more students that passionately support our cause. To enquire, click here.

2020

In addition to our ongoing goals of 2019, we seek to increase the number of students in the program and enable more young Laotians to a university degree.

Therefore we are looking for additional funding for 10 students (670 USD x 10 students x 3 years).  Support that will sponsor a student over the course of their studies and memberships are both great ways of achieving this goal.

To enquire about membership, get in touch.

Support our work by donating what you can

Support our work by donating what you can

Our background

2011

Evelyne Spaargaren, a primary school teacher working in Zurich, travelled to South East Asia with her husband on their honeymoon. In Luang Prabang, Laos they stayed in a boutique hostel called “Lotus Villa”, which was owned by the Australian Andrew Brown. Through him, they found out about the local orphanage he was supporting and decided to visit the children. Amazed and profoundly touched, Evelyne shared her experience with the mother of one of her students back home, who then decided to travel to Laos with her family. 

2012

The mother of that student was Annika Gartenmann, who together with her husband and her three children travelled to Luang Prabang the next summer. They stayed at the “Lotus Villa” where they got to know Andrew Brown and his projects personally. Amazed and inspired by his work, they donated some money, not knowing that they would be back soon. 

2013

The next summer, Annika Gartenmann returned with her daughter Franzisca and two other familes to help renovate some of the dorms, cook for the children and teach them English. It was an incredible week full of laughter and insights for both parties.

Read more about the week here.

As Laos is so incredibly poor, making a difference is fairly easy. Franzisca Gartenmann came up with the idea to raise some money in order to support some of the students through scholarships. While bake sales were less successful, Annika Gartenmann suggested she should present the scholarship project to a foundation she previously worked with. Franzisca presented her idea before the board of “Symphasis”, a social fund of the Swiss bank Credit Suisse. The board was delighted by the idea, yet they needed an official Swiss organisation in order to fund the project. That was the founding idea of Lotus for Laos. 

2014

Besides asking Evelyne, Franzisca also convinced her close friend Lara Twerenbold as well as family friend and serial entrepreneur Stephanie Schoss to join the board of Lotus for Laos. In January 2014, the organisation was founded and at the same time, the first 10’000 CHF was granted by “Symphasis” initiating the program “Scholarships for a better future”. In the first year, 15 young Laotians were able to attend university. 

2015

Through generous support of multiple private sponsors and the donation of 10’000 CHF by another Swiss foundation, Lotus for Laos was able to increase the number of supported students to 23 in total. 

In April that year, Lara and Franzisca travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a small internship with the renowned organisation “Child’s Dream”, which included a ten-day field trip through rural Laos with various visits of the organisation’s different projects. After that, they spent time in Luang Prabang with Andrew and the children of the local orphanage, discussing how to improve the project and how to increase its impact. 

Back home, Franzisca won the “Young Women in Public Affairs – Award” by the women’s club Zonta, which triggered Lotus for Laos’ nomination for the “Prix Courage Next Generation 2015”, which they surprisingly then won. In general, it was a great year with many valuable insights and various possibilities to spread the message. 

2016

Through the immense support of yet another foudnation, private donors and the prize money of the awards, Lotus for Laos was able to increase the number of students to 36. It was also the year of the program’s first three graduates, which was celebrated accordingly. 

Sadly, it was also the year that founding members Lara Twerenbold and Stephanie Schoss left Lotus for Laos due to personal reasons. Nonetheless, they still very much care about the project and are usually the first ones that get to hear about exciting news. 

2017

In March, Franzisca travelled to Laos with her mother Annika in order to connect with the students and to discuss further steps with Andrew. It was an incredibly enriching trip, once again making it very clear how much good work can and should be done. With that in mind, Lotus for Laos was able to increase the number of students by almost half, resulting in a total of 72 students in the program thanks to the generous support of the TASNA foundation. 

2018

This year was one of the most rewarding as we were not only able to support 78 students, but 17 graduated successfully from university. Franzisca travelled to Laos twice, once in Spring and then later spontaneously in summer as she was backpacking in Vietnam. She was also awarded the Filippa’s Engel Award and Blick am Abend published an interview with her.

Franzisca Gartenmann: It is incredibly to see how a crazy idea that I had when I was 15 turned into a successful project only four years later. I am incredibly grateful and humble for all the support we have received despite our young age. This would not have been possible without all the people that believed in us and our cause. Always remember: If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in your room.

2019

This year marks a new chapter for Lotus for Laos. Sadly, Evelyne Spaargaren decided to leave the organisation after 5 years, but is still in close contact and very much interested in the continuing journey of the project she basically started. At the same time, the board was joined by Hanna, Isabel and Janos, who are all inspired to increase the impact Lotus for Laos can have. 

This year, 80 students are currently studying at the local university in Luang Prabang and we are expecting many of them to graduate within the year. 

Latest updates

Review 2017 and Objectives 2018

REVIEW 2017 AND OBJECTIVES 2018 2017 Review Every year is unique and so was this one for Lotus for Laos. In March Franzisca Gartenmann traveled to Laos and visited the three orphanages Lotus for Laos currently supports. We are proud to report that in the summer three...

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Travel Report March 2017

Travel Report March 2017  Luang Prabang, Laos in March 2017 Travel report by Franzisca Gartenmann After a two-hour flight from Bangkok, my mother Annika Gartenmann and I landed on the small, but fine airport of Luang Prabang on the twelfth of March and firstly had to...

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Review 2016 and Objectives 2017

LOTUS FOR LAOS 2016 The new year is already knocking on the door and “Lotus for Laos” looks back on an eventful 2016. We have achieved a great deal, but we have learned even more. We are grateful for the generous support and trust we have received. In the following...

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