Run for Children saves lives: A Q&A with Pierre Boismard
Strengthen your heart while keeping theirs beating
Run for Children 2022 is a charity event organised to support Lao Friends Hospital for Children, providing free and compassionate medical care in Northern Laos. The hospital has seen a tremendous impact since its opening, where almost 150,000 children have received free treatment since 2015.
With an appalling 1 out of 15 children not being able to celebrate their fifth birthday, the mortality rate in Laos remains one of the highest in Southeast Asia. Lao Friends Hospital for Children believes every child has a right to high-quality healthcare without costing them a penny because, in many ways, it is a gateway for them to lead a happy and healthy life.
Pierre Boismard, Director of Development at Lao Friends Hospital for Children and organiser of Run for Children, addresses the charity run that weaves through the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang and how you can help make a real difference for the children.
Q: What is the story behind Run for Children?
A: Run for Children began in 2014 when we decided to organise the Luang Prabang Half Marathon to support Lao Friends Hospital for Children. Since the half marathon takes place on the same day as the almsgiving ceremony, where thousands of monks from Luang Prabang accept food offerings, the race has always been about giving back to those in need. Our slogan for the race is “strengthen your heart while keeping theirs beating,” because by participating either physically or financially, you will help treat and save the children of Laos.
Q: What is the situation at Lao Friends Hospital for Children like?
A: While making progress, Laos still has the highest child mortality rate in Southeast Asia (45.5 out of every 1,000 die before age 5). Mortality is much higher amongst the poor, less educated, and rural population.
Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) is the only free pediatric hospital in the northern region of Laos. After opening its doors, LFHC provided care to over 7,000 children in the first year. Those numbers have grown significantly over the years, as we now serve over 30,000 children annually and provide medical training to dozens of Lao doctors, nurses, and specialists.
To serve the children, the hospital operates 11 departments. We have a 24-bed neonatal unit that is nationally recognized as well as provides advice and training to improve services in other provincial hospitals. In addition, we have the following departments and services: outpatient, inpatient, emergency room, operating room, laboratory, pharmacy, outreach services, and nutrition. The hospital also has two specialized clinics designed for the local population: thalassemia (a rare form of anemia) and development (for autism, down syndrome, and other developmental problems). Autism is often a stigma in Asia, and our team offers advice to families to offer them a better future. Having experienced an increase in patient acuity in our services, we decided to create a 12th department: A High Acuity Unit that we opened in July 2022.
Q: What is the hospital lacking most?
A: Lao Friends Hospital for Children offers free medical care to all children up to 15 years old and is 100% privately funded. The hospital went through two difficult years during the pandemic without any live events, followed by the war in Ukraine and the economic crisis, which significantly affected our fundraising. Financial help is what we need most to support operating costs with 182 employees, including 34 doctors, 74 nurses, and 74 technicians and administrative staff. In comparison, a nurse in the USA receives $75,000 per year, and with less than half of that, you can support 4 Laotian nurses. We can see that a relatively small budget can make a profound difference in improving the quality of paediatric care and reducing infant mortality in Northern Laos.
Q: How else can we support Lao Friends Hospital for Children throughout the year apart from Run For Children?
A: Lao Friends Hospital for Children organises different fundraising events throughout the year. You can follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with our events: https://www.facebook.com/LaoFriendsHospitalforChildren/ or our website: https://www.fwab.org.
The hospital also receives support from international volunteers, you can click here if you want to join our team: https://www.fwab.org/work-volunteer
Q: What do you hope to achieve?
A: By providing free, quality medical care, our goal is to reduce child mortality. The second objective is to train new generations of medical personnel (doctors, nurses, technicians). Our mission is to change the medical landscape of Laos. By improving child health, the country will reap the benefits through significant increases in opportunities for education and productivity.
Q: Where will the donations go?
A: 17% of our revenue comes from special events such as Run for Children, 65% from contributions, 17% from grants, and 1% from others.
As for where our revenue goes, 30% goes to the inpatient department, 25% neonatal intensive care unit, 15% emergency room, 12% outpatient department, 12% allied department, and 8% to management.
Every penny counts and all donations would be contributing to a meaningful cause - to continue to serve and provide the best care, free of cost, for the children.