This week of training for new Lao Ban Advocates has been fantastic. The workshop closed with the most difficult challenge of the week: public speaking. Each one of the advocates were encouraged and found the courage to deliver their speeches in front of the entire group. This was not an easy job, as for some of them, they told their stories for the first time, outside of a familial context.
During the week of training, one of the great successes was to see how little by little the cluster munition survivors got closer to each others, as they shared their experiences about their daily lives. We saw this week some individuals who felt more and more confident taking part in the Ban Advocates group and understanding how their stories and messages can be powerful.
Phonesavath is one of the younger Lao Ban Advocates. He is 17 years old and he has been severely injured because of a cluster munition’s accident two years ago. He lost both his arms and he is blind. He came to attend the meeting with the support of his sister. At the beginning of the week, this young boy seemed very sad and hopeless and even said he wanted to go home. He is facing a big challenge in his life, and several other cluster munition survivors got closer to him this week, to meet and discuss with him. Little by little, we saw him smiling, and we hope that this week gave him some hope to play a new role as now one of his main strengths is his voice, his smile and his story.
“I was very happy to attend this workshop in my own country” said Bounmy, a Lao Ban Advocate who previously attended the regional conference on cluster munitions in Indonesia last November. He learned a lot and was pleased to see the group of Lao Ban Advocates growing. This will enable them to have a stronger voice by acting all together.
Thi from Vietnam, and Reth from Cambodia, were both very happy to exchange their campaigning experience with the new Lao Ban Advocates. They were both touched by those Lao cluster munitions survivors. They were able to learn about their rights and how to advocate for the implementation of the victim assistance provision under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. They both hope that, as Lao supports this Convention, Vietnam and Cambodia may soon follow this example. Why not also set up a stronger group of Ban Advocates in Vietnam and in Cambodia?
They both inspired the group of Lao cluster munition survivors and Reth explained about the necessity for each one to take advantage of any opportunity to build their own capacities. Before any support is given by the Government we should be able to help ourselves he said.
We closed the one week workshop with a showing of traditional dance with disabled dancers which really impressed all of us. We also experienced a “Baci”, which is a ritual ceremony to wish good luck, and at this occasion to wish a safe trip back home, and best success to future projects. During this ceremony, we all received a white bracelet to put on the wrist.
For sure, nobody will forget this week spent altogether in Laos, and especially the hospitality and friendly welcome we have all received in Vientiane by the team of HIB in Lao.