This post wasn’t planned at all. Actually, none of my posts are planned, but as I have two days left in Laos, I thought I would only get around to writing my country lessons and summary. Today’s visit to the COPE visitor centre in Laos’ capital city, Vientiane, changed my plans…
COPE, which stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, is a local not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) and provincial rehabilitation centres to provide access to orthotic/prosthetic devices and rehabilitation services.
To illustrate the significance of COPE’s work, here’s a bit of historical background about Laos…
Laos, which was officially named a ‘neutral’ country during the Vietnam war (1955-1975), was victim of countless secret attacks on the ground and from the air and became the most bombed country per capita. Between 1964 and 1973, 260 million sub-munition ‘bombies’ were deployed on Lao soil, which equated to one bomb every eight minutes of every day for nine years!
Here’s where COPE comes into play… It’s estimated that 78 million of these bombs failed to explode! Country people, particularly children and adults trying to make a living from collecting scrap metal, are at risk of injury – or death! – from the unexploded ordnance (UXO) and 30% of COPE’s patients are victims of UXOs. Organisations like COPE are doing crucial work, giving hope and a chance at life to people who had just about given up.
My travels through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos over the past eight weeks have shown me how harsh, unfair, sad and disgusting the civil war was for these countries. Just thinking about the injustice innocent people have suffered brings a ball of emotions to my throat, which is why I had to write and protest. It might not do much to help, but if I can raise awareness a tad more about what’s happened in this region of the world, it’ll be a step forward.
One of the drawings at the visitor centre puts it quite well: “This is the real fruit of war! That people die for no reason and no result.”
I decided to ‘buy a leg’ (a prosthetic device, that is!) while at the COPE. If you’d like to buy one too, check out the online donation at http://www.copelaos.org. Let’s help each other!