helping laos get back on its feet

cope national rehabilitation centre clinic in Vientiane copyright Lucas WahlAs a child, Miss Chanh felt hopeless. She was born with clubfeet and could not run around like the other kids. She had great difficulty walking and had to use crutches to move around. Chanh lives in the very beautiful and mountainous Oudomxay province in the north west of Laos.

Although the treatment now offered through the centres for babies born with clubfoot is non-invasive and highly successful, it was not available 20 years ago when Chanh was born. During her teens, Chanh received an orthotic, but over time it broke and was painful.

In January this year Chanh visited The Intrepid Foundation supported organisation, COPE, where she was fitted with an updated orthotic device. “I feel much better when I use the orthotic to support my legs because it not only enables me to move around more comfortably but it also helps me to be more confident. After I visited the COPE Centre and met other patients there, I realised that I’m not alone and I’m useful,” said Chanh.

Chanh is now in year seven, the final year of high school. In the future she would like to complete high school and attend university so she can get a good job. Apart from attending school her life is like other teenagers now. She helps her Mum do housework, takes care of her younger sister and is learning how to make her own clothes. What a huge difference COPE’s assistance has made!

Thanks to Intrepid travellers and their donations, the funds we raised last year for COPE helped support the provision of services at 5 rehabilitation centres in Lao PDR. This includes patient transportation to and from the centres, food allowance and the treatment itself, including any surgery and devices, as well as materials and maintenance for the workshops.

During 2011, 1,325 prosthetic and orthotic devices were provided to people with disabilities. The greatest cause of disability and the need to access the prosthetic services is the unexploded ordinance that contaminates the country. But COPE does not discriminate by the cause of disability and help people in a range of situations, just like Chanh.

You can help more Laotians to walk with confidence by supporting The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) through The Intrepid Foundation, and Intrepid Travel will double* your donation!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

Photo: Ladies waiting in the national rehabilitation centre clinic in Vientiane for their prosthetic leg fittings, October 2011.
© COPE/Lucas Wahl,

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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While your sentiment is well meaning Michael a quick chat with COPE staff would have told you that they are an organisation whose focus is on establishing employment opportunities for locals, not well meaning tourists.

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