In a city without an official ambulance service, volunteers at Vientiane Rescue have the responsibility of being the difference between life and death on the streets. These volunteers, the majority of which are young people, have been inspired to help others after seeing and personally experiencing the horrors of road accidents, like Ai, who’s sister died on the street in front of him. Life and Death in Vientiane meets the volunteers of this rescue service in an exploration of who they are and what motivates them. How do young people, with no previous medical experience, face the challenge of coping with the never-ending demands of their work?
Vientiane is the capital city of Laos, a country in Southeast Asia. It’s a rapidly growing city, with French influenced boulevards lined along Buddhist temples. The traffic is increasingly getting worse, and although the law states you must wear a helmet, a clear majority of Vientiane’s motorbike riders ignore it. As soon as the sun sets, the high accident rate, developing roads, and increased traffic combine into a tragic mix.
Vientiane Rescue runs solely on private donations including cash, vehicles, equipment and fuel to survive. Sebastien, originally from France where he was a paramedic, came to Laos to work with an NGO, but after witnessing a horrible crash that made him rethink his purpose, he teamed up with some interested locals and created the volunteer rescue service. They started out with just one vehicle and struggled every day to keep the service afloat. The situation is so precarious, that each day they must wash and reuse throwaway items like bandages as they can’t afford to keep buying them.
The number of people in the organisation has grown, and surprisingly the majority of these volunteers are young people in their late teens, 20’s and early 30’s. They come from all different parts of the city but all share a personal story of tragedy on the roads, and uniquely, feel a responsibility to help the people of Vientiane.
Whether it’s before they joined like Ai and his sister, to when Soy, a young high schooler, who bravely tried to help a friend whom they couldn’t save, all have a personal connection to their work. Being so young, these volunteers must juggle it all with their studies, family, and social life, which all take a back seat to the help they provide the community.
During this film, we meet Sebastien, a leader and mentor figure to this young organisation. Kik, a bright-faced business student and Lao language teacher. Ai, a family man, whose wife and kids struggled to come to terms with his volunteer work. Soy, a high schooler whose mum had to stay with her when she first started. Bey, a translator and at 25 years old, one of the senior volunteers. Ta, who has no paid employment, and likens their work to the Buddhist teachings. And Johnson, one of the ambulance drivers, who is training to become a pilot. Their success and failures equally bring this varied group of dedicated local people closer together.
An inspiring story of responsibility, youth, and community, Life and Death in Vientiane is about a group of young volunteers coming together through adversity and making a real difference in the lives of everyday people. Without these volunteers, there’s no hope for Vientiane’s road accident victims.
Directed and produced by Rob Innes
Producers: Scott Brennan, Aleck Morton
Consulting producer: Mish Armstrong
Story consultant: Anne Barker
Cinematographer: Richard Kickbush
Editor: Aleck Morton
Sound recordist: Sam O'Reilly
Interpreter: Souphavanh Bey
Post production translator: Vonesili Saysana
Producer's assistant: Savannah Thatcher
Sound mix: Brendan Fitzgerald
Colour grade: Suemi Akita
Music licensed by Audio Network
Website by: Czarina Lapus
Kik, Ta, Ai, Johnson, Kone, Soy,
All the volunteers at Vientiane Rescue
And the people of Vientiane, Laos
All our Pozible supporters:
Calina O Apogee
Eric Le Roy
Fahey Prinny Scott Younger
Kristin Skye Sargent
Pauline Hunter Knight
Paulito Nino Cordero
Rachel Jessica Huxtable