Noudeang Dhala, 75, lives in Phabong village, Hinherb District, Vientiane Province.
“I went out to the jungle with my friend on soldier duty to patrol around the conflict area between Xieng Khouang and Xaysomboun Province. It was 1970, and I was 29 years old. I stepped on a landmine, and I woke up in Phonsavanh hospital. The doctor in the hospital could not treat my leg due to serious damage, so they sent me to Vietnam and my leg got amputated there. I had to stay in Vietnam for nearly six months.
When I came home, I felt trapped. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t work. Then, I had an idea – in 1975 I fabricated a homemade leg with bamboo. It was better, but heavy, and not very comfortable. I wore this bamboo leg until mid-2015, but finally I decided not to use it anymore as it was quite painful and inflexible.
I had heard about COPE before but could not afford to come to Vientiane. However, in January 2016, someone told me about the economic support that COPE provided, so I went to the Center for Medical Rehabilitation in Vientiane for one month. I enjoyed staying there while they were making my leg. I met lots of people and I had never stayed in Vientiane before, so it was a fun experience. Now, I have this beautiful prosthetic leg, and it is much easier for me to work in my rice paddy. I am grateful to both World Education’s TEAM project and COPE for their help in supporting me.”