Vilay Souilasith moved to Nongbouakham village when he was 11 years old and his family resettled to make way for the Nam Theun 2 (NT2) hydropower project. He attended school in the new village, and after finishing high school had the opportunity to join a newly formed youth group called Happy Nakai. The group was established in 2015 under the Youth Leadership initiative of the NT2 project, with the aim of improving the skills of young villagers, while giving them an opportunity to work on their own community development projects. Under the Youth Leadership program, the District Youth Union Office and Education and Sport Office, in collaboration with a team from Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC), have developed a curriculum for courses such as management and leadership, business planning, accounting, English, and environmental science. The program also encourages youth to put in practice what they have learned after they finish.
Since joining, Vilay has volunteered his time to help the Happy Nakai youth group work on its three main pillars: economic, social and environmental engagement. Economic engagement has been essential to make the group financially sustainable, beyond the lifetime of project. The youth have learned about production, marketing and sales of handicraft products, and have worked with local weavers’ groups to increase sales and develop new products. The youth are also trying to develop other income generating activities such as production of herbal products and organic crops, as well as event organization and food catering.