Meet the volunteers of Khoun Ethnic Community Radio

09 Aug 2012

Khoun Ethnic Community Radio is the first community-run multilingual station in Lao PDR and was founded in 2007, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Its programmes deal with a wide range of issues, such as health, farming and cooking, and are broadcast in Lao, Khmu and Hmong languages. The programme has had a positive impact on the community. Information broadcast from the radio has contributed to a 60 percent increase in the number of vaccinated children in Khoun District, and the number of diarrhoea-related illnesses has significantly decreased.

We asked two of the volunteers about their backgrounds and to find out how their work helps the community.

Mr. Duajang is 33-years old. He is a member of the Hmong community and an editor for the Hmong language programme. He started working for the radio in 2007.

Q: When and why did you start working for the Khoun Community Radio?

A: I am working as a volunteer for this station since its beginnings. There are many reasons why I wanted to become a volunteer. I was interested in the way community radios work, I wanted to improve my skills, and wanted to help my community. Many Hmong people don't understand Lao language and cannot read or write. By being a volunteer here I can disseminate information in Hmong language, and help improve my community.

Q: What did you learn during these years?

A: Before I joined the station I did not even know how to use a computer, I learned it here. Now I can use editing software, I can type, and I have learned how to produce radio programmes. I am very proud to be part of this.

Q: What are you doing at the radio?

A: One of my tasks is editing. When Hmong volunteers write a script, I have to check if it is right. I am also the host of a programme. Besides this, I help other volunteers in editing, and I am a board member of the radio station. But this year, in part because of my work at the radio, I became the head of my village, and I don't have as much time as I had before. Still I am trying to come here at least once a week.

Q: Do you see your volunteering activities at the radio as a hobby or as a second job?

A: I don't see it as a hobby. It is as important as my work for the village. I am trying very hard to find time to continue working for the radio. I try to produce material in advance, and I ask other volunteers to broadcast my pre-recorded programmes.

Q: What are you most proud of from your time as a community radio volunteer?

A: I think even though my work had no direct financial benefits for my community, just by bringing information to the people I believe that I have managed to increase their knowledge on some very important issues.

Q: Is there any area where the radio would need further improvement?

A: Donors could increase the power of the transmitter. That way more areas of Khoun District could receive the signal. And the solar panel that powers the transmitter could be replaced by regular electricity, because every time we have heavy rains the transmitter stops working.

Ms. Vanseum Keomanikone, is a 21-year old Khoun Community Radio volunteer of Khmu ethnicity. She started working for the radio in 2011 and is in charge of the Khmu language programmes.

Q: When and why did you start working for the community radio?

A: I have been working here for almost a year now. I am very interested in the wellbeing of my community, and I believe that I can help them by broadcasting information. Besides this I am hoping to improve my skills.

Q: What are you doing besides volunteering?

A: I just finished high school and I haven't found a job yet. Besides working here I help my family on the rice fields. In the future, I am planning to continue my studies. I would like to get a degree in public administration, and after my studies I want to work in Khoun District.

Q: What have you learned while working for the radio?

A: I learned how to speak more confidently. I learned to use the computer, and became comfortable with using editing software. Right now I am the main person responsible for the Khmu language programme, therefore it is my responsibility to teach others who want to work on the programme. I want to teach them all those things I have learned while I was here.

Q: How does your community feel about your work at the radio?

A: My fellow villagers are very proud of me. I am also well respected by the community members, and now I am the main messenger of my community. If they want something to be known by the wider public they write it on a piece of paper, give it to me, and ask me to announce it on radio. Because we broadcast relevant information in the radio, villagers now know more about how to take care of animals, how to grow vegetables, how to use fertilizer. They can also learn about best practices from other villages. These are very important, because I hope my village can become a developed village by 2015.

Q: What do you mean by “developed village”?

A: Right now my village has no electricity and no water supply. By being a developed village, I mean that we can have access to all of this, and that the villagers' life conditions will improve.

Q: What challenges need to be overcome for the radio?

A: I would like to propose that the solar panel be replaced so that our energy supply is more reliable. I would also like to increase the number of broadcasting hours, because many field workers would want to relax and listen to the radio after they are done with their work, but often they don't have the chance to do so because there are no more programmes by the time they get back from the field. Moreover, I would like to see more volunteers from the Khmou community who could produce more Khmou programmes.