XIENG KHOUANG, LAO PDR – Continuing the United States’ proud tradition of partnering with the Government of the Lao PDR to help those with disabilities on September 24-25, 2019, U.S. Ambassador Rena Bitter joined Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Madame Baiykham Kattiya in leading a delegation to visit a disabilities inclusion project site in Xieng Khouang Province supported by the United States. The delegation saw first-hand how the U.S. Government’s Okard project, funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), works with the Government of Laos to help persons with disabilities engage in their communities and participate more actively in society.
Ambassador Bitter and Deputy Minister Madame Baiykham observed community awareness raising and screening activities in Kouymor Village, located in Xieng Khouang’s Kham District. These activities are led by Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) facilitators from the Quality of Life Association (QLA), a local non-profit association.
“I was impressed with the work of these CBID facilitators,” said Ambassador Bitter. “By helping persons with disabilities access and take advantage of economic and social opportunities, the Okard project demonstrates the American people’s support for Lao citizens in building a more inclusive, healthy, and prosperous Lao PDR.”
USAID’s Okard project works with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health, together with implementing partners World Education, Humanity & Inclusion, and QLA, to promote disability inclusive policies so that no person is left behind. The project connects policy level support to individuals and communities through case management and community mobilization in two districts in Xieng Khouang and Savannakhet provinces. In its first three months of operation, CBID facilitators have so far reached over 1,750 people as part of community awareness sessions, and have conducted screenings for more than 500 persons with disabilities in Xieng Khouang Province.
While in Xieng Khouang, Ambassador Bitter visited the Mulberries Organic Silk Farm social enterprise, where English language students from the U.S.-supported Lone Buffalo Foundation gave her a guided tour. She also saw the Plain of Jars, which recently became Laos’ third UNESCO World Heritage site, and paid a courtesy call to Xieng Khouang Governor Bountone Chanthaphone.
The United States partners with the government and people of Laos to improve education, promote health and nutrition, facilitate trade and investment, and strengthen the rule of law.