Building hope

Meuang Kang school in Laos

Through a special fund developed with the University of Calgary Global Health and International Partnerships (Laos Community Development Initiative – Meuang Kang School Project), Calgary physician Dr. Janice C. Heard helps a Laos village to build schools that will improve their children’s futures.

It’s something I’m so proud to be a part of and something I intend to be involved in for the rest of my life.

Dr. Heard and students at the Meuang Kang schoolWhen Dr. Janice Heard first travelled to Laos in 2007, she never imagined she would someday be helping to build schools.

“I had gone to Laos to help modernize curriculum,” recalls the Calgary pediatrician. “It was so outdated that new doctors went into the hospitals never having examined a patient or even taken a history. So there was a huge amount of work to do.”

It didn’t take long for Dr. Heard and her colleagues to form a bond with the country and its people. Which is why, when typhoon Ketsana devastated parts of the country in 2009, they jumped into action.

Dr. Heard quickly organized a fund-raising effort to help flood relief. “Because a little money goes a long way in Laos, when we went back we were able to buy supplies to help a village of about 100 people completely rebuild.”

Moved by the poverty of the region, Dr. Heard used the leftover relief money to help rebuild a small five-classroom school in the village of Meuang Kang – the only school in the region – which serves 200 students from five neighboring villages.

Students at the Meuang Kang school in LaosThat work inspired villagers to tackle other much-needed projects. “The University of Calgary allowed me to set up a fund specifically to continue that work.”

Since then, the Laos Community Development Initiative – Meuang Kang School Project has done everything from building washrooms (including the only sink with running water in the village) to adding electricity and computers to the schools.

“We’ve really let the village decide what they need.” Along the way, the project has helped to build a new elementary school, sent teachers to computer college and is now looking to sponsor local children to complete high school, with the ultimate goal of sending them on to medical school so that they will return and serve the village.

“So now I need to raise more money,” laughs Dr. Heard, who will return to Laos in November. “It’s something I’m so proud to be a part of and something I intend to be involved in for the rest of my life.”

More about this initiative

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