By NZNO members and nursing students Dana Baillie and Laura Knox
In January of this year, we were lucky enough volunteer for two weeks in Laos, South East Asia. Laos is a communist country that only opened its borders to the rest of the world in 1990.
As a developing country, a third of its population are living well below the poverty line. In our short time spent there it was evident that although they may be poor, they were rich with happiness and love. We found Laotians to be deeply family orientated and the most generous and hospitable people.
Our volunteering consisted of construction in a small village primary school, and at an elephant conservation centre both situated in the heavy military based province of Sayaboury.
In our studies to become registered nurses, cultural safety is a key aspect of providing competent care to patients.
Our time spent with people from a totally new and different culture and religion (Buddhist) was eye opening, teaching us so much that we did not know about ourselves. We have realised the importance of culture in people’s lives and furthermore have the utmost respect for their beliefs.
In Laos everyone, from the children in kindergarten to the elderly who remain in family homes until they pass on, shows so much friendship towards anyone who may cross their path. They are always willing to teach, we don’t think they realised just how much they actually taught us.
Our time in Laos showed us that there is so much beyond what meets the eye and that culture is not only the basis of a persons’ life. For us, the experience was a lesson on how to live our lives.
Thanks to http://www.elephantconservationcenter.com/ for the use of the photos above