A Conversation with PhouthAlee Vongsamai

PhouthAlee Vongsamai is many things – she is a mother, a wife, an employee, a nonprofit business manager, a friend to many, a woman with disability and an advocate for others.

She is also proof of what is possible if you have strong, supportive mothers, mentors and role models who encourage and nurture a belief in ourselves. Proof that having people who lift us up and support us, give us the foundations to move forward and lead a life that fulfills our potential.

Find out more about how I was inspired to share this series of Laotian women’s stories with you here

Read more as PhouthAlee shares her Inspired story with us:

Tell us about yourself

My name is PhouthAlee Vongsamai, I am 35 years old.  I am married and have three children. I am working two jobs every day. I am in Administration of AustCham Lao and my second job is a Director of XonPhao Disabled People Working Group, a group I have set up myself. My home is  in Vientiane, the capital of Lao PDR


What has been your journey of disability?

When I was 3 years old, I was very sick with malaria and got polio in my legs and left hand, it is made it very hard for me to walk well, but I never gave up. I didn’t let my disability stop me to do activities with family and friends.

When I was 6 years old I not know that I am a disabled person, I tried  running and jumping with my friends but I could never win and I always ran very slow until I was 9 years old,  then I just understood and knew that I am a person with disability.

I would love to improve myself and to show that I can do things – this is the best way for other people to accept me, as people with disabilities are people with human rights.

Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability? Who inspires you?

Because I am a woman with disability, many people think women cannot do like a man, they do not look at what a woman with disability can do.

My big inspiration is my mum – I am so lucky that I have my mum as my idol. She teaches me everything that she can, my mum never saw me as a disabled person, she raised me to be a strong woman.


What’s one thing that someone has taught you that completely changed your life?

I was given an opportunity to get a job. As a woman with disability,  I have appreciated the opportunities that I have had to be able to learn new things and improve my skills. People from my workplaces have supported me not be scared to show what I can do, like other people.


Who or what has been the most significant influences on who you are today?

It would have to be the Helvetas organization in Laos that has had the most significant influence on me. They gave me a chance for a big change and opened up opportunity for me to make strong skills. I can speak English now and am successful in getting jobs because, if I have no high education, nobody will accept me.

What’s one thing about you that surprises people?

Even though I have no high education, I can get a good job. Another thing is that I can drive a big car.


For what are you most grateful today?

That I have had the opportunity to work with foreigners because I have learnt a lot and gained experience so that I am able do a lot of different jobs in the office.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I would say thank you, that during that time that I have not given up on myself,  because my parents had no budget to support me for continued education.


Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disability that they might not know?

For nearly two years now I am building a small centre by myself to help other people with disabilities.  I hope to share my knowledge and experience with training and help to improve opportunities for others to get a better life. I always promote to others what people with disability can do. People with disability need a more inclusive society and the opportunity to work alongside non-disabled persons.


  1. Nice story.
    Really enjoyed hearing from a person from a country that can do with the additional attention this article provides.

    • Thanks Zane! It is great to know that there are many people with disabilities, and others in Laos working hard to make a difference and improve opportunities that create better lives. Im glad you enjoyed reading PhouthAlee’s story. 🙂

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