20 June 2009

The Story of Mekong Circle

Between 1957 and 1975, Filipinos came to work in another Asian country that is largely unknown today. The country is Laos. Bounded by its neighbors -- China and Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the north, Vietnam in the east, Thailand in the West and Cambodia in the south -- its landlocked geography is unique in Southeast Asia.

A river called Mekong, from its source in the Chinese highlands and gushing down to the Vietnamese delta, marks its border with Thailand. At 2,600 miles, it is one of the lo
ngest rivers in the world.
By 1965, there were close to 900 Filipinos working and living in Laos. They were doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, agriculturists, dentists, engineers, accountants, and technicians of all sorts - from aircraft maintenance workers to artists, architects, teachers, and administrators.

In 1975 when a new government was installed in the country, they all had to leave. They dispersed across the globe, with most of them returning to the Philippines while
others settled in the USA.

In the USA, they formed an association -- Mekong Circle -- that during its formative years organized reunions. Later, understanding that its multi-skilled membership can render services, it incorporated into a non-profit, nongovernmental organization based in California. Its focus turned once again to Laos as well as the Philippines, the birthplace of
most of its members.

Both countries happen to be among the poorest in the world, with a third to more than half of their populations existing on poverty levels. Resources for food, education and health are scarce.

Mekong Circle has been granted federal tax-exempt status. As a charitable and educational organization, do nations to its programs are tax deductible by donors. If you are interested in helping, the most efficient way would be in sending cash donations. Please visit our Support page.

Committees manage our programs as unpaid volunteers. Current expenses are met by proceeds from reunion eve
nts, and these are fast getting depleted. It depends mainly on the generosity and expertise of its members, who during their service in Laos, know first hand that charity by itself, cannot sustain. Our programs aim for lasting benefits.

We welcome you now to mekongcircle.org. For all of you Laos expats out there looking for a cyberspace to chat, seek comrades, post messages, relive memories, we offer
you this site. We will try to update it as often as we can, offer more links and alert you to the latest news about Mekong people and events.

[Text by Pete Fuentecilla]

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