Vientiane, 2 November 2016
Young actors, dancers and volunteers from around the world gathered on the Mekong river-bank with an unprecedented surprise performance to stimulate action on climate change and celebrate International Volunteers Day.
Photo: United Nations in Lao PDR/ Sinthala Vilaysom
Families pushing strollers, teenagers taking selfies, determined fitness fanatics young and old running and stretching, tourists marveling at the Mekong River for the first time and snack carts peddling cold drinks. This usually sedate scene at Vientiane’s Mekong recreation riverside area was shaken up last Saturday afternoon when, out of no-where, 50 people put on Lao PDR’s first-ever flashmob with a strong message of climate action.
Flashmobs are public gatherings where people perform an unusual or seemingly random song or dance and then scatter. These performances are typically organised through social media. Lao PDR’s first-ever flashmob stopped passers-by in their tracks as actors wearing giant red masks and green costumes appeared out of nowhere to perform the Lao legend around the Kat Khao Vine and Pu Nye, Nya Nye. In this story from the 16th century, an old couple sacrifices themselves by cutting down a vine sent from the gods to block out the sun to punish humans for not taking care of their natural environment. This street theater piece morphed into a dance, which gradually grew as more and more dancers joined in. Finally, a group of 50 dancers moved and grooved together to raise awareness on climate change and Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action.
Stage Director Ms. Thiane Khamvongsa came up with the concept of using an old story to tackle a modern problem. “Theater and storytelling is a fantastic way to bring dynamic groups of people together to tackle common issues like climate change. For our young performers, working together with the United Nations Volunteers, the Fanglao Dance Company and other organisations has been a great example of how we can reach a common goal and raise awareness on big issues if we work together,” said Ms. Kamvongsa.
The unsuspecting audience was encouraged by the Climate Action Flashmob to personally take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by volunteering to protect the environment, with practical tips for everyday action shared via flyers linking to the United Nations in Lao PDR website.
The United Nations Volunteers in Lao PDR was one of the organisations behind the Climate Action Flashmob. The surprise performance was organised to coincide with International Volunteers Day in order to encourage people to become everyday heroes for climate action. Ms. Chelsey Parish from United Nations Volunteers in Lao PDR was one of the flashmobbers, "Volunteering is a powerful way for individuals to get involved in their communities and help fight climate change.”
"You can contribute to achieving the future you want by volunteering in your village, your school, around your home as an individual, or even by forming your own volunteer group. It can also be really fun, like our flashmob today,” said Ms. Parish.
The moral of the Kat Khao Vine legend is to respect the natural environment. This story is more relevant today than ever before, as the devastating effects of climate change are being felt around the world. In Lao PDR, severe weather events are increasingly impacting the country, resulting in droughts, floods and super storms. From 1990 to 2015, Lao PDR has suffered 21 floods and storms, with the more severe ones affecting over 500,000 people. The United Nations and the Government of Lao PDR are working together working together to improve climate change adaptation measures, enhance preparedness for natural disasters and protect forests and other ecosystems.
With the glorious backdrop of the sun setting on the river, the flashmob ended, the performers melted into the audience and the normal rhythm of the riverside was restored as the crowd dispersed and continued their momentarily disrupted pursuits, equipped with the knowledge of how to take climate action, and perhaps with more appreciation of the natural beauty of the Mekong.
The United Nations climate action flashmob was a joint community engagement initiative by Fanglao Dance Company, United Nations Volunteers, the United Nations Development Programme in Lao PDR and CUSO International with the support of the Government of Lao PDR.
- For information on how to take climate action in Lao PDR (Lao and English): http://www.la.one.un.org/sdgs/sdg-13-climate-action/how-to-take-climate-action
- For information on Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action (Lao and English): http://www.la.one.un.org/sdgs/sdg-13-climate-action
- Follow the UN in Lao PDR Facebook page to see a film on the flashmob: www.facebook.com/UNLaos
- For more information about United Nations Volunteers: www.unv.org
Ms. Ildiko Hamos-Sohlo
Communications Specialist, UN in Lao PDR
Tel.: 021 267 778
Mobile: 020 7717 7913
Ms. Chelsey Parish
Programme Officer UN Volunteers
Tel.: 021 267 723