Last night, Saturday 10 December, was the occasion of the annual charity concert for COPE, a not-for-profit organization in Laos that provides prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services for disabled people. The event coincided with a complete lunar eclipse and what felt like the start of winter in Laos. Strong winds and temperatures below 20C were fortunately not enough to keep people away and the concert was attended by hundreds of locals and expats looking to enjoy an evening of great music and to support COPE in its important work. Personally I had one of the best nights in a long time, enjoying a great line-up of local acts including the Red Eye Fish, Pull-T Club, Honky Tongs blues band and the ever-so-amazing Lao Bang Fai breakdance group.
Laos is the most bombed country in the world per capita. During the Vietnam war, over two million tons of explosive ordnance was dropped in Lao territory by the US in an effort to stop the North Vietnamese troops advancing through Laos. It is estimated that some 30% of the ordnance did not explode, leaving some 80 million unexploded bombs around the country. Needless to say, most of these bombs remain buried around the country to date as UXO (unexploded ordnance) clearance is time-consuming, costly and dangerous. UXO Laos, an organization dedicated to UXO clearance in Laos with the support of MAG (Mines Advisory Group) reports that since starting operations in mid-1990s they have cleared approximately 500,000 sub-munitions from cluster bombs which accounts for just over 0.5% of all UXOs dotted around the country.
COPE’s services will thus be needed by people injured and maimed by the remaining bombs for a long time and they can use all the help they can get. Last spring, my friends and I fundraised for COPE at our joint birthday party. Those in Vientiane should definitely visit the COPE center and its permanent exhibition, not to mention its cafe with delicious homemade ice creams (open daily 9am-6pm). Why not donate to COPE this Christmas and give someone a new leg that will change their life forever, for the better?
Whilst writing this: Finnish presidential elections in early 2012 are getting closer and MTV3’s Good Morning Finland (Huomenta Suomi) show is broadcasting live interviews with all the eight candidates in English starting Monday 12 December. I look forward to hearing what the candidates have to say to the international audience! Available also online after the interviews. More info on the Facebook event page.
Currently reading: I’m back in bed with Dr. Siri Payboun. I also recently finished Diplomatic Incidents: Memoirs of an (Un)diplomatic Wife by Cherry Denman, which was a most refreshing read and thus warmly recommended.