Back to Vientiane and First Hand Experience with VWB

So far things in Laos have been very fascinating and educational for our group of Employees traveling with Veterinarians without Borders. Today we have updates from all 3 employees!

Laos Update from Amanda:

Sa Bai Dee! We have arrive safely back to Vientiane and it took a bit of getting used to, seeing as it is bigger, and busier than Luang Prabang. We met the VWB Asia Manager – Sonia who has kept everything running for VWB in this end of the world. Together with Sheila and Jae we all got to visit one of the eleven villages that Anne and the VWB, and the University has been working together improve. During our visit we saw Anne giving hands on training to the selected PAHW’s (Primary Animal Health Worker) of the village. Who would then, with trust, be able to teach the other villagers.

It was really amazing to see the patience and care Anne and her husband Tom give to ensure, even with the huge language barrier that the proper methods of animal care are met. We visited many different houses and the animals varied from chickens and ducks, to dogs, goats, cows and more. It was really clear that all the participants and villagers with us were very eager to learn and appreciative of this opportunity they have been giving to better care for their animals and in turn their own people. That visit ended with an amazing visit at the university, where we saw in detail the future plans of the university as well as a really moving presentation from Anne showing us pictures documenting her life here in Laos for the past few months.

Being over 40km away from Vientiane, Sonia organized us a rustic stay at an eco-lodge in Ban Pako. It was a small secluded area by the river, solar powered and very natural. There was one outdoor dining room, as well as four big hammocks, they also offered massages and sauna which they called ‘Jungle Bath.’ Back in Vientiane we visited the Morning market as well as the oldest temple in the city. We noticed through all the temples we’ve visited the 7 headed Naga (snake) is there as protection over the temple and the city. Down at the opposite end of the presidential palace is a huge arc matching L’arc de Triomphe in Paris. Virtually Same Same (Lao saying) but it had a very beautiful Laotian touch! We’re all leaving now for a home-stay visit in Savannakhet, in southern Laos, which will encompass a trek in a sacred forest and spending the night in a home in the village. Wish me luck!!

Laos Update from Luis:

Sabai dee!! We have returned to Vientiane capital of Laos PDR.  Vientiane enhances a cultural and relaxed atmosphere.  Life in this pleasant capital is slow-paced. We have visited the National University and some of the communities where VWB-VSF Canada is presently working.  In these communities, it is exiting to know how Aeroplan miles have been utilized to fly Anne Drew, an amazing Canadian woman.  Her work with VWB/VSF Canada in Laos’s communities is making a great difference.

We had the opportunity to visit three villages to hear and see first-hand the experiences that the Laos Veterinary Extension and Ecohealth Project is creating.   We attended a presentation by Veterinarian Anne Drew where she shared her experiences about the project.  We met with a group of PHAW (Primary Animal Health Worker) and witness the hard work and training they go through to successfully become an Animal Health provider. The University team and the VWB/VSF team shared with us Most Significant Change stories, an evaluation method used for this project. In one of them, Ms. Khammoun Keomany from Nakhao village explained:  “Before, there was no village veterinary worker. We had to look for vet workers in other areas for vaccination services or treatment for sick animals.  Since we had so much difficulty to contact veterinary workers, our sick buffalo and cows died one by one… Luckily, the project has come to the village and several people have been trained to be village veterinary workers. There are now 3 PHAWs who have completed the training.” Khop chai!!

Laos Update from Alison:

The last couple of days have been fascinating! When I last wrote I mentioned that we were going to visit the university and hear a couple of presentations as well as attend a couple of the village clinics that VWB and Anne were conducting the next day. We were read some great success stories-what they are referring to as MSC (most significant change) testimonials.

Afterwords, we had the opportunity to see another village, this one quite large in comparison to the others, in the area of Ban Nabong- Nakhao village. Here VWB interviewed a woman of the village who has used the services of one of the 3 trained PAHW’s(Primary Animal  Health Care Worker) that live in her village. She spoke very positively about this program, about how easily accessible it now is to call on them to help her animals when they are in need. She also talked about how the PAHW’s offer advice to them, such as giving their animal’s clean water and good food. Because of the recent dry season a lot of the animals in many of the villages are quite lean. One of the things I noticed about this village is how good the animals here looked, they appeared really healthy.

The next day we revisited one of the first villages that we previously saw, for their village clinic. The purpose of these clinics is to allow the PAHW’s to gain experience and practice along side of Anne who is an actual vet , who can give them confidence by offering advice, right there in the moment. Although the language can sometimes be a barrier, she is so patient and calm with the local people and you can see that they are really beginning to trust her. She is setting them up with the skills so that in the future, they will be totally self-sufficient.

This is the goal of VWB, as well as our other Beyond Miles partners, with all of their projects around the world. I am a member of the Community Engagement team at Aeroplan and this was very important for me to see in action.  By visiting these villages and seeing their work and change that has happened first hand, it proves that projects like these will be more successful than just “throwing” money at a problem. By giving people people the knowledge and training, you are setting them up for generations of success.

Our next adventure is traveling on a night bus and then hiking a 8km trek through the scared forests of Savannakhet. This is a new wildlife project that VWB is investigating. Hopefully we’ll see some of the special wildlife that only Lao has to offer. Khop Chai and stay tuned for more.

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