There’s a modern day superhero delivering miracles in Laos.
Sébastien Perret would have a problem with the first line. He would turn your attention to the fact that Vientiane Rescue is a team effort, a miracle for sure, but not the result of one guy’s efforts. This hero doesn’t feel comfortable with the personalization of the teamwork it requires to power a heart driven organization. I would only partially agree because it is Sébastien’s passion for justice, humanity and community in every sense that makes Vientiane Rescue special.
Vientiane Rescue is the only 100% free emergency and rescue service in Laos. Operating in a country deemed one of the Least Developed Countries in the world by the World Bank, Vientiane Rescue serves about 20-30 serious accident victims per day with a majority unable to pay for any medical expenses.
This rescue operation has quite the serendipitous history, finding its origins in 2005, when a Foundation for Assisting Poor People of Lao PDR was launched by locals and no foreign aid. In 2007, the foundation received a donation from a temple in Thailand, it happened to be an ambulance vehicle. With this vehicle, a handful of volunteers decided to launch a first aid service, operating occasionally.
Then enters Sébastien Perret in 2010, a former fire fighter and Red Cross volunteer from Paris, on his way home when he witnessed a car accident in Vientiane. He performed CPR on the victim, but the guy was already dead. As fate would have it, that donated vehicle arrived on the scene with two guys wearing flip-flops with no proper training or equipment, just a desire to help address the desperate need for emergency medical care in Laos. After a few heart to heart conversations and the discovery of aligned visions, a 24/7-ambulance service called Vientiane Rescue was launched in September 2010. Sébastien plus seven people (4 of whom were only 15 years old at the time) with no training, no money, and little equipment decided to do something. Until this day, none of the volunteers are paid. What truly powers Vientiane Rescue are love and respect for humanity. Most of the volunteers have very little, but they give everything. Some have just a primary education and no primary job. They live and eat at the training center and volunteer full time. Hearing that alone has reignited my hope in humanity once lost to cynicism.
Sébastien praises his team constantly saying, “They are the best people I ever met. There’s no way we would have achieved what Vientiane Rescue has become without the team. Our main success is not the work we do on the roads or the number of people we save every day, it’s the way we do it… we are a family.” Witnessing death together creates a special bond, it can compel people to do courageous acts simply because it is the right thing to do, it is the heart of justice.
I asked our non-spandex wearing superhero to describe some of his best and worst moments with Vientiane Rescue. He humbly shared they don’t do miracles everyday, but sometimes they do and that’s amazing. His worst moment is every day when he realizes they don’t have the technology and equipment to save lives, having to accept that those they rescue may die from the lack of proper care. To add to that burden, victims are often left unattended if they don’t have money to pay for the bill after being handed over to a hospital in Laos. Most Lao citizens don’t have public or private medical insurance, they are too poor. It is a sad reality that enrages him.
Sébastien and I may never see eye to eye on the emphasis on the individual, but every mission must have a visionary and a pioneer to cast that vision. I am glad he is that person because it takes a great leader to serve a great team of heart fighters.