One of my earliest dreams was to return to Laos, the country of my ancestors, to help improve the lives of the Lao people.
As professional ballet dancer, I knew that with age, I would have to end my dancing career. I began to learn the craft of jewelry making in my free time which led to my starting my own jewelry label ‘Suzette, One of a Kind Jewelry’.
While visiting Myanmar and Laos in 1996, I was shocked by the standard of the jewelry and workshops.
I decided to use the knowledge of my own jewelry business, bringing tools and my experience from Germany, and since 2011 return consistently to the country of my ancestors to work in the jewelry trade and craft.
Using materials from the area and the local craftsmen, the jewelry 'project' would stay under my supervision until the local people could take over the business for themselves.
‘Hoi Sang, Unique Lao Jewelry’ (www.hoi-sang.com) is a thriving business out of Luang Prabang, Laos. The craftsmen have improved their jewelry craftsmanship and the creations are sold in chosen hotels inland.
With the income from the sales the craftsmen are able to better care for their families and have even built better homes. We are hoping to develop this further.
While overseeing this project I have been fortunate to meet and now also work together with responsible others dedicating their lives to helping others. Asked to negotiate the contract between the Luang Prabang Provincial Hospital, Government officials and German doctors from Interplast, Munich, (www.interplast-muenchen.de), the worldwide non profit organization of surgeons operating in the third world, I was ecstatic to have a first team of doctors from Interplast, Munich perform 50 medical operations, changing the lives of just as many families. The Interplast team hopes to return again in the near future.
I believe in helping to create ‘sustainable’ work and life. To do so one can only guide local individuals to want to make change for themselves and to help them to understand how this can be possible. This cannot be done by just going into a country and giving money or supplies for what we think is necessary. One needs to first find interested local people, listen to their needs, work together to guide them to achieve goals and income to survive better to make these desired changes. This takes much dedication and trust on both sides that is only built up in time. Therefore it is essential to choose to work with responsible individuals and organisations. Follow me here for developments with projects inland!
In 2016 I met the organisation based in Washington DC, Legacies of War. (www.legaciesofwar.org) with the mission is to raise awareness about the history of the bombing and advocate for the clearance of the unexploded bombs, providing space for healing the wounds of war to create greater hope for a future of peace.'
President Barak Obama was the first American President to visit Laos. This historic moment awoke the world to Laos’ history and plight. My knowledge of Laos broadened in 2017, when I joined the team from Legacies of War to learn first-hand about the UXO sector in Laos.
It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
I am honoured and humbled to be elected as new board member and embrace this opportunity to work together with Legacies of War as a beginning to an exciting new chapter in my mission to help Laos. To help empower the Lao to move ahead, lead a better life and to contribute to a brighter future for their country.
To enable this, we must make the land safe to walk forwards and develop!