Friends Without A Border
I’ve been talking about moving out to Laos to volunteer for quite a few months now and I am finally here!
It’s been a week since I arrived and I love it here so far, but before I talk about my week, I want to introduce the organization I am volunteering for, Friends Without A Border.
Friends Without A Border is a non-profit based in New York and Japan that was established by a renowned Japanese photographer, Kenro Izu. During his visit to the Angkor monuments almost 20 years ago, he witnessed a young girl die because her family could not afford $2 for medication. From that experience, he was determined to build a children’s hospital in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I have met Kenro several times and he is such a genuine and selfless person. He is always extremely enthusiastic about new ideas for the the hospitals that sometimes he gets a little overwhelmed himself :) I met him for the first time last January in Laos for the 1st anniversary of Lao Friends Hospital for Children and felt his palpable passion. Meeting Kenro was definitely one of the deciding factors to come volunteer for FWAB. His passion and dedication towards building a solid foundation for healthcare in South East Asia is an instrumental driving force for this organization.
FWAB has built two hospitals, one in Siem Reap Cambodia called Angkor Hospital for Children, and another in Laung Prabang called Lao Friends Hospital for Children (which is where I am!).
Angkor Hospital for Children
AHC was built in 1999 and is now considered one of the three essential healthcare institutions in the country. It has treated over 1.4 million children and has trained hundreds of healthcare professionals.
AHC is an extremely large complex in the heart of Siem Reap and is continuing to grow. I visited AHC this past January and I was very impressed with the management and maintenance of the complex. Equipment and machinery are all new and all state of the art. The lab and research center look like facilities you would find in Japan or the US.
AHC Cambodian doctor and nurses were initially trained by expat medical and administration staff, but in 2013 AHC was handed over to the local community and is now 100% locally managed. Since the beginning of AHC’s establishment, Kenro wanted to build a sustainable system that not only treated Cambodian children but also educated and developed Cambodian health professionals. Today it is one of Cambodia’s most renowned children’s hospitals and education centers!
Lao Friends Hospital for Children
LFHC is still very new and was built in February 2015. It’s the first full service pediatric hospital in northern Laos and has already treated over 25,000 patients. Since it is still very new, there are many expat doctor and nurse volunteers from all over the world to teach and train the Lao doctors and nurses.
There are around 60 Lao staff, which include 10 doctors, 22 nurses, 2 physical therapists, 8 technicians, 3 pharmacists and the cleaning and security staff. At any given time, there are around 4–6 expat volunteer doctor and 4–6 expat volunteer nurses who help train and work with the local team. Apart from the department directors, all expats are volunteers and it’s extremely international! Currently we have a least one person from the US, Australia, France, Netherlands, the UK, Canada and Japan.
I will be working with the development and hospital administration teams, working to increase local and international presence of the hospital and assisting hospital management.
So far it has been great and I love being in Luang Prabang! Stay tuned :)