Over spring break, Video Art teacher Cheri Gaulke teamed with Emmy Award-winning journalist Jeff MacIntyre and historian Alethea Tyner Paradis to take 11 Harvard-Westlake students to Laos under the guidance of Friendship Tours World Travel. Their mission: to document the plight of the Laotian people as they face daily maiming or death from unexploded bombs left over from the Vietnam War. The students, along with the Laotian organization Give Children a Choice, helped raise more than $3,300 to purchase a tractor for a the Yelee Family, whom they met and interviewed during their trip. Mr. Yelee lost his legs in an explosion and was afraid he wouldn’t be able to earn money for his family. Today, Mr. Yelee feels that he can make money by helping fellow villagers clear their rice fields, retrieving water from the nearby stream to their home, transporting products to market. As a result, he is more confident that he can help meet his family’s needs.
"I had an eye-opening experience on a Harvard-Westlake sponsored video journalism trip to Laos during my Sophomore year spring break. We were shooting film to create short video documentaries about the legacy of the Secret War on Laos; hundreds of thousands of tons of unexploded ordinance still lie active in the Laotian soil. We also had a lot of fun exploring the beautiful natural waterfalls, visiting elementary schools and playing with kids, and even riding elephants. I came back with a greater appreciation of culture and a new perspective on life after seeing the disparity between the United States and Laos. I strongly recommend any Harvard-Westlake sponsored international trip for anyone interested."
Koji Everard, Student
"Laos was really the start to a fruitful career that I have dreamt of since I was 7 years old. Not only was it the perfect opportunity to leave home for once, but working with Jeff MacIntyre and the other mentors helped nurture a love for telling stories that empower our generation and move it to change. Documentary filmmaking is a beautiful craft. It's extremely humbling and rewarding to raise the voices of others and let the world hear them. There's truly no other feeling like it."
Max Cho, Student
“In Laos I saw a world beyond the bubble that is our school, our country, and I met remarkable people whose stories it was a privilege to tell once I got back.”
Marcy Park, Student