From Happiness to Agony back to Happiness…

Published on Jan. 9, 2018, on LinkedIn

By Stefan Sjöström, Microsoft Vice President for the Public Sector Asia

This is a personal story that I am compelled to share with you as it has many aspects of humanity, sadness and happiness all put into one.

Over the past three weeks my wife and I had the privilege to spend time in Laos and as part of a “give back to the community effort (this was our fourth trip). We brought children’s clothes that kind supporters across Singapore provided and on location we supported the local merchants to provide more cloths, fruits (read C-vitamins) writing books, pens, pencils. In fact, we had previously donated a cinema for the common room in a Hmong Village and had the opportunity to bring music and musical instruments to those in need. This year we added a surface device packed with off-line Khan Academy for self-learning purposes.

We covered many of the 39 minorities in Laos and enjoyed their hospitality, trekking, home stay not to mention their Lao-Lao (home brewed whisky). The Akha, Khmu, Hmong amongst others are terrific people living their lives peacefully in their villages according to their traditions. You should visit!

As we wandered through waterfalls on our second last day of the trek we arrived at a shared Khmu and Hmong village and we did our usual sharing of writing books, pens and pencils. As we were about to go on our last trek, we were brought to see a two-year-old boy that was in tremendous agony.

Their (his) home was smoke filled driven by an open fire, no electricity and three of the elderly women were all doing their best to clean up a rather substantial burn. Apparently, the boy had boiling water all over his body and after three days of “Shaman” calling upon spirits coupled with local treatments with local aids, he clearly was in a very bad shape.

We were lucky to gain the villagers support to take the boy to a hospital. The journey started with the local village truck with the mother, father and child along with some locals sitting on the open back of the truck driving down the gravel road for about an hour until we met up with our organized van from the trek. We then spent three hours to Luang Prabang to reach the nearest hospital (the Military one) only to learn that there was in fact a children’s hospital nearby. The guide did not know, nor did the local driver…

When we arrived at LAO FRIENDS HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN; FRIENDS WITHOUT A BORDER, the hospital staff provided immediate assistance and relieved the pain with Morphine. Dr Indi informed us that the boy has 17% of his body severely burned but that he will be fully recovered after two to three weeks treatment. He also mentioned that given the conditions of bringing him in after three days was helpful albeit at risk, but luckly he was not infected. Had he stayed in local treatment, who knows what will have happened, but infections would clearly not be ruled out.

The staff at the hospital are truly angels and their efforts should not go un noticed. A very charming Nurse from Australia (at her final stage to qualify as a doctor) who reassured us at first that “our boy” will be fine is volunteering as many others do at the hospital. These people are incredible to give up time of their lives as otherwise highly paid professionals to provide care for free to the children of Laos. I have huge admiration for their efforts passion and commitment to keep children healthy and happy. They are a set of angels…

In my almost 64 years of life, I have made quite a few donations but never asked anyone else to. This is a rare situation and if you have it within you to share something no matter how small to how you can help, please visit or simply email

We were privileged to find ourselves in a situation where we could add some sunshine to this family. We made sure our boy, Hapor Ya, will be taken home with his parents in a short while and their family has been taken care of while they await the progress of Harpor Ya. Haper Ya will return in a Spiderman’s outfit.

I produced a short video of how the morning started and the journey to the and the final ending at the hospital and I hope you can get some idea of what was going on…

A small donation can save another life, so don’t delay, do it today.

I hope this resonates with you! Also, please feel free to share the story…

All the best,