Ballina teenager David Richards, 15, is on his way to Laos with over 60kg of clothes to fulfil a promise to the children he met on a previous visit.
Ballina teenager David Richards, 15, is on his way to Laos with over 60kg of clothes to fulfil a promise to the children he met on a previous visit. CATHY ADAMS

Teen to help needy children

THE plight of villagers in Laos is something that has concerned 15-year-old Ballina High School student David Richards since a trip to Thailand and Laos in March this year.

He travelled there on holiday with father Mark, a painter, to celebrate the Asian New Year and to learn more about the culture.

The Richards family has friends in Chai Nat, located on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thailand, who previously lived in Ballina.

As well as catching up with them, Mark and David hired a driver and interpreter to visit a village a day's drive away in the mountains of Laos.

“I took muesli bars and chocolate for the children,” David said.

“They all loved the sweets, but what struck me while I was there was that their clothes were all ripped.

“The adults told me they hadn't had any change of clothes for their families for a year.”

It was David's first trip overseas, but after one of the villagers asked him if he could return with clothes to help them, he knew it wasn't going to be his last.

“We had a good time in over there, but we also met people who live in huts and have nothing,” David said.

On his return to Australia, he started thinking about how he could collect clothes.

“I've asked friends to make donations and we've come up with 60kg of children's clothing,” he said.

David said he couldn't forget how different the villagers' life was to his own privileged life in Australia.

“I guess that's one of the reasons I made a promise to go back,” he said.

“I am really looking forward to seeing them again and delivering the clothes.

“Dad and I will be gone for six weeks and, while I am there, I will be also going to a school.”

Mr Richards said the idea of the trip was for his son to experience a different culture and way of life.

“David will stay with the villagers for about a week, eating with them, and playing with the children,” he said.

Mr Richards and David left Australia yesterday.



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