The wheelchair basketball team from Champasak Province emerged victorious at the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament after narrowly beating the host province (Vientiane) 34-33 in the final. This made Vientiane and Luang Prabang the first-runner up and second-runner up, respectively.
The tournament, held at the Vientiane International School, marked the first time that players from Champasak, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Xieng Khouang Provinces, along with teams from Vientiane, came together to compete. The tournament is part of the “Para Sports Awareness Raising Program through the Development of Wheelchair Basketball in Local Provinces,” which helps empower persons with disabilities so they can live to their fullest potential and be active in their communities.
“We are convinced that this project will enable other people with disabilities to join and participate in more leisure and sport activities in the future. We believe that wheelchair basketball showcases the World Education’s TEAM project spirit wonderfully, and we hope to continue to display the skills of the Lao players to a wider audience,” said Colette Mclnerney, the Country Director of World Education.
The U.S Ambassador to Laos, Rena Bitter, also added, “The U.S. Government is committed to supporting the integration of Persons with Disability (PWD) into society, working to remove barriers and help people improve their quality of life.”
The sub-grants are part of a $5 million grant USAID awarded to the World Education Laos TEAM project in September 2014. The project provides sub-grants to local and international non-profit organizations in four main areas: training medical and physical rehabilitation staff, increasing access to economic empowerment opportunities for people with disabilities and their families, providing assistive technology to people with disabilities, and improving availability of medical and physical rehabilitation services. The goal of the project is to create a country where persons with disabilities, especially women and girls, are empowered and enabled to attain and maintain maximum independence to fully and equally participate in all aspects of life.
On 21 March 2017, at about 11:30 A.M. in Nyod Ngeum (Nongpet) Village in Paek District, Xieng Khouang Province, Miss. Lab Lee (10 years old) and Miss. Seng Lee (7 years old) found a UXO on the side of the road on the way home from school. Thinking it was a ball from the game pétanque, they took the ball home to play with their friends.
That day, the Lee family was having a baci ceremony, and the children were playing in the front yard. When Miss. Lab Lee took the UXO out to play with, the UXO dropped to ground, exploding. Tragically, Miss. Lab Lee was killed immediately, and the twelve cousins around her severely injured.
Immediately following the accident, the family brought some survivors to the Nongpet Sub-District Health Centre and some to the Xieng Khouang Provincial Hospital, where they received first aid. The same day, all survivors at the Sub-District Health Centre were transferred to the Xieng Khouang Provincial Hospital for further treatment; the Xieng Khouang Provincial Hospital notified World Education’s Victim Assistance Support Team (VAST) and the Quality of Life Association (QLA) of the accident one hour later, suggesting that VAST and QLA visit the survivors and their families the following day.
VAST coordinated with UXO Lao Xieng Khouang to check the accident area on the same day. Following this, UXO Lao confirmed that the type of UXO was BLU 26.
The next day, 22 March 2017, VAST and QLA went to the Provincial Hospital to meet with the survivors and their families to collect initial information and inform them of the War Victims Medical Fund (WVMF), which covers any and all medical expenses incurred by the accident. They also provided them with VAST’s and QLA’s contact phone numbers.
In the coming days, VAST and QLA will support the survivors and their family members in any way they possibly can. VAST is ready to facilitate the WVMF, and they are working on funeral support for Miss. Lab Lee and her family.
This Saturday, 18 March, the USAID-funded World Education Laos TEAM Project, with the Asian Development with Disabled Persons Japan (ADDP Japan), will host the first-ever domestic national wheelchair basketball tournament at Vientiane International School (VIS) at 9:00 A.M.! The tournament will feature five teams from Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Savannakhet, and Champasak Provinces. See you there!
Ms. Norm and Ms. Nout are two beneficiaries of the Resilient Livelihoods for the Poor (RLP) Project; the RLP Project enables the poorest households in Saravane Province to have sustainable livelihoods through the development of micro-enterprises.
The RLP Project provided Ms. Norm with pigs and Ms. Nout with goats — through animal raising training, financial literacy training, and fortnightly follow-ups, RLP supported Ms. Norm and Ms. Nout in learning how to support themselves for a better life for them and their families.
To hear about Ms. Norm’s experience with the RLP Project, please watch the video below:
To hear about Ms. Nout’s experience with the RLP Project, please watch the video below:
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!
[Wheelchair basketball] is really hard, and you guys are incredible athletes…I find it really inspiring, and it is such a great honor for me to be visiting with you all today and to watch you practice,” said U.S Ambassador Rena Bitter when she and other USAID representatives visited the Wheelchair Basketball training of Asian Development with Disabled Persons (ADDP Japan) in Savannakhet on February 15th, 2017. She encouraged all participants to continue being inspirations for others and working hard regardless of their physical impairment.
ADDP Japan is one of the 15 partners in the USAID-funded World Education Laos TEAM project.
ADDP Japan created 4 wheelchair basketball teams and trains young potential players to be members of provincial wheelchair basketball teams in Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Savannakhet and Champasak Provinces. ADDP Japan will organize the National Tournament games in Vientiane on March 18th 2017. ADDP Japan, WEL and USAID are proud to contribute to the increased opportunities for PWD to play sports and hope to see some of these players on the Lao National Wheelchair Basketball team in the future, or even at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics!
Victims of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) accidents often face psycho-social trauma in addition to physical trauma. Experiencing physical impairment can lead to feelings of frustration and alienation as daily activities that were previously mindless, like brushing one’s teeth, come with a new set of difficulties. Through its Victims’ Assistance Support Team and War Victims Medical Fund, World Education in Laos provides integrated medical, livelihoods and psycho-social support to Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) accident survivors and their families.
World Education Laos recently piloted a peer-to-peer support program for UXO survivors to share mutual support and understanding throughout the rehabilitation process. In this video, UXO survivors Teuy and Phongsavat are able to identify practical solutions to successfully go about their daily lives.
On 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disability, World Education Laos (WEL) were pleased to host a special event to promote the strength, resilience and ability of persons with disability, led by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dana Jones, an Army helicopter pilot who lost his leg in 2002 and eight months later was back in the cockpit flying with a prosthesis. The event was attended by the newly appointed U.S Ambassador to Laos, Rena Bitter, USAID Laos Office Director Alexandria Huerta, Country Director of World Education Laos Colette McInerney, and seven Lao nationals who are living with impairment.
All participants were able share experiences about overcoming adversity with Chief Jones, making for a truly inspiring and empowering event. World Education Laos strongly believes that peer-to-peer support is one of the most powerful psychological support mechanisms for people with disability. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dana Jones pointed out that, “It does not matter who sees us, but it does matter how we see ourselves in the mirror. Although we may not look like others, our minds and thoughts are absolutely normal or maybe even in better condition than others.”
Ambassador Bitter thanked all participants for sharing their inspirational stories and achievements regardless of their physical impairment.
Sone, 20 years old, lives in Long Khan village , Phoukhoud District, Xieng Khouang Province.
On 22 August 2016, Sone and his 4 relatives went to the forest to collect wood. At 11:30 A.M., Sone made a fire to cook some food; the fire had not been going for more than 10 minutes when it exploded. Sone’s right foot was injured, and his relatives immediately sent him to the Provincial Hospital. He was admitted to the hospital at 8:30 P.M. The doctor performed surgery to remove the shrapnel from his foot.
World Education was informed about this accident on 23 August 2016 by a Provincial Hospital doctor. VAST visited the survivor and his family to explain the War Victim Medical Fund policy and arranged for reimbursements for costs already paid by the family and also explained what other expenses would be covered by the fund. The family was relieved to know that this support was available.
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.”