Austria’s Tyrol state – the birthplace of SOS Children’s Villages – has presented the Grand Non Tyrolian Eagle Award to Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in recognition of his contribution to the development of SOS Children’s Villages Laos.
The award was presented on Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Governor of Tyrol, Mr Gunther Platter, handed over the award to Mr Thongloun, who is the Honorary President of the SOS Children’s Villages Laos Management Committee.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Mr Platter said the Grand Non Tyrolian Eagle Award is awarded to those who have made a significant contribution to cooperation and relations with Tyrol – the state where the first SOS Children’s Villages were built.
“It is a beautiful and high-pride medal [award]. When you are awarded with this medal and you visit Tyrol, you are the most important guest of Tyrol,” Mr Platter said, as translated from German by an interpreter.
The governor said it was his great pleasure to present the award to the Lao prime minister.
The award reflects the long-standing relations between Laos and Tyrol, to which Prime Minister Thongloun himself, who has visited Tyrol several times, has contributed by deepening the relations.
In particular, both sides have cooperated in the establishment and development of the SOS Children’s Villages, Mr Platter said.
Mr Thongloun pushed for the establishment of SOS Children’s Villages Laos, so that disadvantaged children could be well taken care of and given an education.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Mr Thongloun said he was privileged and deeply honoured to have been given the award. He expressed his pleasure at being recognised for his contribution to the establishment and development of the SOS Children’s Villages Laos.
Since its establishment in 1993, SOS Children’s Villages Laos has continued to grow and has provided more opportunities for disadvantaged children to have a normal upbringing through humanitarian assistance.
There are six SOS Children’s Villages in Laos – one each in Vientiane and the provinces of Champassak, Xieng Khuang, Luang Prabang, Huaphan, and Savannakhet.
SOS Children’s Villages Laos have provided shelter, care and education to more than 1,460 orphans and disadvantaged children.
Of these, more than 600 were girls, according to a report released last year when Laos marked the 25th anniversary of the SOS Children’s Villages Laos.
In addition to the SOS Children’s Villages, SOS Hermann Gmeiner kindergartens, primary and secondary schools have been established, thanks to support from SOS Children’s Villages International.
Thousands of students comprising those living in the SOS Children’s Villages and the children of local residents have studied at the Villages’ schools. More than 1,300 malnourished children have also benefited from SOS-initiated nutrition programmes.
An agreement to establish the first SOS Children’s Villages centre in Vientiane was made in 1993 when the then President of SOS Children’s Villages International, Mr Helmut Kutin, visited Laos and initiated the idea.
Mr Thongloun, who was then Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, proposed the idea to the Lao government and the scheme went ahead.
Mr Kutin, who is now the Honorary President of SOS Children’s Villages International, was also present at Friday’s award presentation.
On the same occasion, Lao Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, who is President of the SOS Children’s Villages Laos Management Committee, representing the Lao government, awarded the Xayphatthana Medal to Mr Platter for his great contribution to the work of and support for SOS Children’s Villages International and SOS Children’s Villages Laos.
During the ceremony, Mr Platter on behalf of the Austrian state presented 480 million kip for the flood recovery effort in southern Laos.
By Times Reporters