Project Phongsali: Villagers with disabilities continue to arrive in Sop Houn hoping that we can help.

March 19, 2010

Bouneun, age 27, lost his leg years ago in a logging accident. He made his way to Sop Houn in hopes of finding help. We took him to our partners at COPE to be fitted with a proper prosthesis.

Day 46

Every day we do two or three demolitions.  Soon the team will catch up to Yai and me as the stream of villagers taking us to see ordnance has finally slowed.  Once the team is right on our heels, we’ll put the guys to work surveying the schoolyard and clearing it of any ordnance they find.  That will be a slow, laborious task that will let Yai and me log a few more finds and get ahead of the team again.

Villagers from near and far continue to journey to our camp in hope of finding help with an illness or disability. It’s frustrating to see so many people in need and have so little to offer.  It’s easier on me than on Yai.  I can walk away from desperate cases; Yai has the job of explaining to desperate families why so little can be done.

This morning an elderly father and his blind 25 -year -old son arrived while we were eating breakfast.  They had walked a fair distance from their mountain village to the river, and then came hours by boat to Sop Houn.  They said the trip cost them 100,000 kip (about 13 US dollars) — a very considerable sum in this neck of the woods — and they still face the expense of returning home.

The father explained that his son, at age 7, contracted cerebral malaria and has been blind ever since.  I asked the young man if he continued his schooling after the illness, and he replied that he had wanted to return to school, but his parents felt that it just wouldn’t be worthwhile.  He told us he couldn’t do much in the rice fields, but he does tend to the chickens and pigs on the farm.

Yai put the young man through part of the eye exam that earlier this week we had designed for Lune, the 10-year-old girl who has corneal scars.  In Yai’s estimation, the man is completely blind in one eye but can vaguely discern large shapes and bold colors with the other.  All we can do is add the man to our growing list of people we’re taking to Oudomxai next week for evaluation at the vision clinic started there recently.

As the men were walking away, Yai called them back and invited them to join the team for breakfast.  The two fellows sat silently, but ate heartily.  They left, hoping to find a friend or relative in Sop Houn who can put them up for several days until our group leaves by bus for the eye clinic.

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