On 2 February 2017, Bouakham and her family were selling scrap metal to Vietnamese vendors. When one of the vendors tried to remove soil from a piece of scrap metal, the UXO exploded. Bouakham’s right leg was immediately amputated, while her left leg was severely injured; her eldest son’s shoulder was hit, while her other son’s eye was injured.
They were immediately sent to the Provincial Hospital, and then on to the Friendship Hospital in Vientiane. World Education Laos staff visited Bouakham at the hospital to introduce the War Victim Medical Fund policy to her and her family, informing her that the fund covers any and all medical costs incurred by the accident.
When Bouakham returned home from the hospital, the World Education Laos Victim Assistance and Support Team (VAST) followed up with her by conducting a psychosocial assessment. VAST found that she was worried about her life and her family’s future, that she now felt different than other people, and that she was often consumed by suicidal thoughts.
To support Bouakham in any way we could, VAST provided support for her medical treatment through the War Victim Medical Fund, while also providing her with basic counselling so she could make her own decisions to solve her own problems. She also received trainings on animal raising and financial literacy, in addition to attending a female Peer-to-Peer Support Workshop to learn from and share life experiences with other UXO survivors.
Now, we are happy to report that Bouakham has been invited to join VAST as a Peer-to-Peer Support Facilitator, providing counselling to other UXO survivors. Sharing her own story, she said, “I was ignored by my husband because of my disability, and I was told I was a burden. But, I never gave up, and I eventually stopped struggling with my disability. I learned how to make my own income by weaving and selling my own products.” She now motivates other female UXO survivors on how to be confident and resilient despite the challenges of their daily lives. We are not the only ones who find her absolutely inspiring!