COPE National Rehabilitation Center ~ LaosPosted on Nov 03 in Laos, Vientianeby ShelynPrint
After checking in Vayakorn Inn, we immediately accessed their free internet to browse for the places of interest in Vientiane. I bet you won’t be able to guess that the #1, the most popular and recommended place in Vientiane, is no where close to the historical or scenic sites. Rather, it’s in the place where people don’t usually pay attention to.
When was the last time you visited handicap house or orphanage? Mine is like few years ago that I don’t really remember the details. It’s sad that we don’t usually pay attention to the less privileged people and solicitous for their welfare. In Laos, you will be surprised that the organization that supports the local people who are affected by disability from UXO, becomes the main attraction in Vientiane.
COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise which is an organization that provides prosthetics and mobility devices for those people who require them, free of charge if they cannot afford to pay for them. COPE is rated as number 1 attraction in Tripadvisor which piqued our curiosity to include it in our priority list.
This is the first, probably the only visitor centre in Laos that you do not need to pay the entrance fee. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not a cheapskate, but after paying for every single place that we visited in Laos, FOC just sounds so unfamiliar.
COPE exhibition centre was very well laid out with creative exhibits and informative write-up about the history of UXO, as well as the drastic consequences of the war which caused numerous victims to lose their limbs.
Display of the bombs with the descriptions written in English
The exhibition centre was decorated with all sorts of bombs and artificial limbs in many creative displays which creates a relaxed and comfortable environment to spend our time in. With the air-conditioning in the centre, we took our time to read through the history of the bombs. During the Vietnam War, the conflict spilled over into Laos in a secret war leaving it one of the most heavily bombed countries in history. Many of these bombs and other devices did not explode at the time. So, even though the war ended in 1975, the country is still littered with a significant amount of UXO’s (unexploded ordnance) which also contributes to poverty, hunger and disability on a daily basis.
The picture above displays all the FEE – Free from Explosive bombs.
UXO, unexploded ordance is a generic term used for all munitions including mines that have explosive, incendiary, and pyrotechnic or gas filling, which have not yet functioned as they were designed.
There are remnants of the many conflicts that have affective Lao over the course of its history.
The exhibition displayed many pictures of UXOs which were taken under supervision of trained UXO clearance staffs. All items in the exhibition have been inspected by the National Regularoty Authority and are ‘Free From Explosive (FEE)’.
On top of the interesting displays with the detailed write-up of the items, there was a ‘cave’ (mini cinema that was decorated like a cave) inside the centre that allows you to sneak in and spend few hours to watch the movies about bombies and Bomb Harvest. The movies are inspiring and educational that bring a new consciousness about the unfortunate victims of UXO.
After watching the films, you can have some ice-cream in the cafe and enjoy the sunshine in Laos. There was even a computer in the hall with free internet access. It’s a great place to hang around especially in the noon time to escape the heat. There is also a shop where you can buy souvenirs to support COPE initiatives. With USD 50 you can buy an artificial limb for someone in need.
We bought this t-shirt for Don, I love the color and the bear, and the shirt fits perfectly on Don.
You can also make donation to support the excellent cause. The work that they have done in COPE is phenomenal and they certainly deserve our supports.
Some interesting handmade post cards.
I like how they publicize their cause in a lighthearted approach. Projecting a wry sense of acceptance without asking for pathetic handout or pity from visitors. I agree with this approach, that what happened to the victims was painful and will take time to heal. But since we can’t change history, we might as well address the problems cheerfully. Ultimately, what the victims want to achieve is to leave the past and face the future with courage and hope.
This is indeed an inspiring and uplifting experience we have in Laos. If you’re planning to visit Laos, do spare at least an hour to visit COPE centre and to help to spread the word to let people know about the project.
National Rehabilitation Centre Vientiane
Laos (Near morning market)