Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, or COPE, is a local non-profit organization that provides clinical treatment and rehabilitation programmes for Lao people with physical disabilities. Working with the government National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), and with financial assistance from international organizations and private sectors, COPE makes prosthetic legs and funds the manufacturing of orthotic devices (devices that help support parts of the body), and wheelchairs and tricycles. It also custom fits arms and hands. Unexploded weapons (UXO) that litter the countryside as a result of the Vietnam War has been and continues to injure and maim thousands of people in the Lao PDR. Most of these people are children who live in rural areas and have limited access to health care. With a headquarters in Vientiane, COPE has five rehabilitation centres in eight provinces to cover the hard-to-reach areas. It provides and funds all the medical treatments and also travelling and accommodation costs for all patients.
COPE centre in Vientiane is well worth a visit. There is an exhibit about the problem of UXO in Lao PDR, with excellent documentary films on the work of the organization. Here, visitors can watch how prosthetic legs are made in COPE workshop using polypropylene, a highly durable but low cost material. The Karma Cafe and gift shop are both made from bamboo harvested locally in a bid to save the transport costs of modern construction materials from Thailand. Stop here to have a cup of Lao coffee and homemade ice cream. At COPE gift shop, you can buy T-shirts and postcards or simply make a donation to this worthwhile cause. The centre even lends out bicycles for free for visitors to explore the town. COPE is situated about 1 km from talat sao (morning market). For those who would like to organise fundraising events, COPE has made a publicity pack for this purpose that contains booklets, a DVD, and its logo.