Friends Without A Border

What started as a simple dream of Friends has turned into a reality for the children of Laos. On February 12, 2015, Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) opened its doors as the staff anxiously awaited the first patient to arrive. A two-year-old boy and his mother entered the door, completely unaware that he has just become the hospital's first and most famous patient.

Over the next year and a half, more than 25,000 children would embark on the same path—each and every visit helping us create a new dawn of health care for all of Laos. Based on the philosophy of compassionate care, the staff treat each patient as if their own child. Children are seen free of charge, regardless of their socioeconomic or cultural background. The number of smiles welcomed, tears dried, and bubbles blown increases every single day.

Visiting Laos for the first time, one would not guess the health situation is so dire. The lush and beautiful landscape, the gentle and kind people, a vast history with the rich culture, and tranquil atmosphere mask the struggles that Lao children and families face on a day-to-day basis. Laos is one of the poorest and least developed countries. The widespread poverty, insufficient public infrastructure, and highly mountainous terrain are significant barriers to accessing health care. Every day is an exercise in survival, and none are more vulnerable than the children. Unfortunately, 74 out of every 1,000 children will not live to see their fifth birthday in Laos, often caused by preventable and treatable diseases.

LFHC is just the first step to creating a healthy, happy, and hopeful future for children across Laos. As the hospital grows to become the first full-service pediatric hospital in northern Laos, the staff see an increasing number of children every day. The Lao team is quick to apply the lessons learned from medical volunteers from around the world; while the outreach team is already delivering care to children with chronic conditions who cannot make frequent trips to the hospital. Common diagnoses include acute respiratory infections, nutritional deficiencies, congenital illnesses, and chronic non-communicable diseases.

Our journey is similar to the one we embarked on sixteen years ago in Cambodia with Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC). Recognized by the Ministry of Health as one of only three essential healthcare facilities in the country, AHC has treated over 1.6 million children. We have another long road ahead but, with your help, we are committed to making lasting change and helping elevate the quality of pediatric care in Laos.

Thank you to the artists, contributors, committee members, sponsors, supporters, and volunteers of the 2016 Friends of Friends Photography Auction, for continuing with us as we expand our mission to provide compassionate care for children in Southeast Asia. Each of you has helped inherit the spirit and compassion of Friends Without A Border—proof that among friends, there truly are no borders.

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