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Japanese volunteer enjoys stay in Xekong helping mothers, women

Wearing the traditional Lao skirt called sinh, Yoshiko Kawaguchi, a 29-year-old health volunteer from Japan, has charmed her way into the hearts of local women.
Her friendly disposition allows her to communicate well with women at the hospital – both patients and staff - and teach them a few midwifery skills she learnt in Japan and India.
Kawaguchi chose to move out of developed Japan to a remote province of Laos - Xekong - under the JICA programme, as she felt people outside her country needed to benefit from her knowledge.
“I asked myself what I wanted to do in life that would benefit people. I realised my knowledge would benefit people in developing countries more,” she said.
Once she found the meaning in her life, she decided to abandon the comfortable lifestyle of the developed world and move to the developing world.

Yoshiko Kawaguchi.

Kawaguchi was selected to work as a volunteer in Laos in 2016 and has now completed a two-year term here. She is a midwife and specialises in pregnancy procedures, reproductive health and care of the newborn.
When she broke the news of moving to Laos to her parents and her three sisters, they had no idea about life in Laos.
“They were surprised because they didn’t know anything about Laos. I explained my reasons to them and they decided to back my decision.”
Before Kawaguchi moved to Laos, she was told that the country was not developed. However, the information did not match up when she landed in Vientiane, which seemed rather developed.
“But when I arrived in Xekong I knew those people were right about Laos being underdeveloped,” she said with a smile.
There were other scenarios that she was unprepared for. Unlike Japan, a patient’s family members take care of him, apart from the medical staff. “In Japan only the medical staff tend to a patient.”
She showers praise on Lao medical staff who perform their duties well even though their remuneration is not that good.
The going was difficult when she started out, but she adjusted with time.
“The staff are kind and friendly. I enjoy a good rapport with them and we enjoy working together. I get a lot experience here that I will not get in Japan,” she said.
Every day unveils new challenges.
“Every day is challenging – as I have to adapt what I learnt to fit in here. One of the most challenging tasks is to continue sharing even after I return to Japan,” she said.
Montha Keovongsa, head of the mother and child unit in Xekong Hospital, works closely with Kawaguchi.
“We learn a lot from Yoshiko. She taught us that it is not just medicine that is important, but it is imperative to teach patients about preventive health measures too. She works closely with patients and gives them tips in a friendly way. We observe and learn from her,” Montha said.
“We have also learnt technical knowledge from her. We are happy and appreciate the help of Japan and we hope to have more help in the future, especially in remote provinces,” added Montha.
Kawaguchi had the chance to visit other parts of Laos. She loved the natural beauty and culture of the country, especially the friendliness of the people.
“I love Laos because people are kind, very good natured, very cultured. There are many ethnic groups but they all live together peacefully. This is important. Even after Laos is developed, I would like it to retain these good things,” she said.
She hopes to be connected with Laos forever.
Currently, there are 63 Japanese volunteers working in various fields in nearly every province of Laos. They continue to help establish and foster friendship and understanding through the technical transfer of knowledge and skills and the sharing of their experiences.
Laos was the first country to receive Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) after the programme was launched in 1965. In 1996, the JOCV office was renamed the JICA Lao office.
Since 1965, a total of 970 Japanese volunteers have been sent to Laos.

By Keoxomphou Sakdavong
(Latest Update November 25 , 2017 )


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