The next day we visited the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center. It was a place where women could use their skills, no matter their handicap, as well as learn new skills and earn some money creating handicrafts and gift products.
There was however a young man, hunched over, working diligently on greeting cards in a large room with fellow disabled people. I was wondering what he was concentrating on, for he was hammering some sort of nail on to yellow felt. When I got in closer to take a photo, I realized he was hitting a screw with a semi circle edge, about 8 times on to the felt, in order to create a circular cutout that his fellow workers would glue on to the cards. All that work, and I was amazed at the number of shapes he’d already made that day, and probably for days and weeks, long before we got there. I was shocked that a task like this would have been alleviated via ingenuity back home in the states, via, either a hole puncher or another type of tool. One of the organization members told me even thinking about finding a ten dollar tool was out of reach.
In 1971 on the plain of Jars, Bounma was just a child clearing the road with her family. American planes dropped bombs and she was left with her disfigured foot. She showed us a journal that she’d been keeping for awhile, writing down everything that happened to her, but up to this moment, never having spoken of the events with the rest of the ladies at the center.
A question that seemed like it had never been posed to her was, “How do you feel about the bombings?” She said she was still full of anger and began to cry, also bringing out tears in CK and VV. The most troubling thing for her was that she was afraid that marriage would never happen for her, because she feels that no one wants to marry a middle aged cripple.
When it came time for the group photos, I also took some casual ones. It was fun, me stumbling through my Lao, and just trying to get smiles out of the young ladies.