Visiting the COPE Center was one of the last things I did in Vientiane. Places like this, like the landmine museum in Cambodia, are always full of inspiration, but also heavy with sadness and guilt (my country caused all of this..)
COPE’s motto is Helping People Move On. In reality, Laos is the most heavily bombed nation per capita in the world. During the Vietnam War, more than a ton of bombs were dropped here per person. Not surprisingly, there are still tons of unexploded bombs as well as “bombies” – cluster munitions.
The result has been awful. More than 20,000 casualties in the post-war era from these munitions. The sign below tells the story (UXO = Unexploded Ordnance).
COPE’s goals, according to its website, are:
- To act as a portal for skills development and training, upgrading clinical skills in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and P&O within the government rehabilitation services and extending to management and administrative skills to ensure that the COPE develops capacity as a local organisation.
- To support expenses of patients who are unable to pay for treatment and associated costs as well as upgrading facilities at the five centres currently supported by COPE.
- To act as an interface between the donor community and the Lao Government. International donors require a recognised standard of auditing and financial accountability for proposals to be successfully accepted and managed.
- To facilitate referral between the network of clinical services to provide comprehensive treatment of people living with mobility impairments, ensuring people with disabilities in Lao PDR will have access to the rehabilitation services that can improve their ability to participate in their communities.
The center is staffed with local victims who are very nice and ready to answer any question you may have. The center makes prostheses for victims, makes victim-friendly household goods, educates the public about these issues, and more.
The center is very small, but its impact is incalculable. Below are some pictures from the center, including drawings made by Lao kids during the war that showed the world through their eyes.