September 2008 Newsletter – Lao Trip and Learning Tour

Posted: Sep 1, 2008


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Legacies of War

Legacies of War was created to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos, to provide space for healing the wounds of war and to create greater hope for a future of peace.

 

Lao Trip Update September 2008
 
Highlights from Our Lao Trip

and Learning Tour
 
Brush monks

 

The preschool will open this fall in Lathsene, a village that survived the bombing, and now, is home to 100 families.
 

Lathsene Village pre-schoolers

 

 
 

Clearing land of cluster bombs for farming

Only 10% of the bomb-contaminated land requested for clearance by Xieng Khoang villagers is actually cleared, due to the slow and tedious the work is and the lack of funding to train and employ additional clearance teams.

 

 
uxo clearance

 

Bomb detonation by UXO Lao (Photo:Boon Vong)
 
Cope

 

COPE provides prosthetics to people maimed by cluster bombs.
 

 

foundry

 

We visited a scrap metal foundry. “Harvesting” scrap metal to sell, especially by children, is a growing concern. There are increasing number of injuries and deaths from this.

manophet school
We helped students to practice English at a language school in Xieng Khoang. It is attended mostly by ethnic minorities, and some students traveled 4-hours to learn. In lieu of cash payment, parents often send chickens, seasonal vegetables or other products they raise on the farm for the students to give to their teachers.
 
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Fred Branfman on the Plain of Jars.
bouaguenfredck
We honored Bouangeun, who helped to collect illustrations from bombing survivors over 30-years ago, at a dinner in Vientiane.

 

 

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September 10, 1996

bounmi

 

By Brett Dakin
 
The date was etched in blue ink in Bounmi’s notebook.  During our meeting at the Consortium in Ponsavanh, not far from the Plain of Jars, he stared down at the page and retraced the digits again and again, darkening them further with each stroke.
 
Bounmi was a volunteer at the Consortium, an organization dedicated to raising awareness among the local population in Xieng Khouang about the problem of UXO, and helping those who have been wounded as a result of their encounters with unexploded ordnance.  On that September day in 1996, Bounmi was digging a large hole near his family’s house in a village outside of Ponsavanh; he was working on a fish pond that the family could use as a source of food (ponds like these are common in Laos, and in fact some families have made creative use of craters from bombs dropped by the U.S. during the war for this very purpose).  As he was digging, his shovel suddenly hit a piece of ordnance, and it exploded.  Bounmi was rushed to the nearest medical facility, and his life was saved–but he lost his left arm.  As he listened to the discussion, he used his right hand to trace and retrace the date: September 10, 1996.  A date that changed his life forever, and one he certainly thinks about many times a day.
I think our group found Bounmi and his colleague . . . (more at Our Shared Journey: Travel in Laos)
 
Schools Not Bombs Campaign

Lathsene Village Preschool

 

By Sakuna Thongchanh

 

 

After a full week in Laos meeting up with various NGOs and organizations in Vientiane, the Legacies of War Learning Tour left for Xieng Khoang province on Friday, August 22nd, to the town of Phonesavan. We were heading towards Lathsene Village to visit our first Schools Not Bombs Campaign preschool . . .
(more at Our Shared Journey: Travel in Laos).

 
 
Lathsene children
 
The Invisible Current that Sustains Legacies

By Fred Branfman
 
She had been a child of ten, up there on the Plain of Jars in 1971, working on clearing a road near her village along with other villagers. Suddenly an airplane came over and dropped its bombs. She was hit in her left foot. “It hurt terribly!”, she said, and she was crippled for life.
 
lao womens disability
 
She told her story softly, as the survivors so often do. “How did she feel towards those who had bombed her?”, she was asked. Suddenly her demeanor changed, tears formed in her eyes. “I am still angry about it”, she answered, “it ruined my life! My life has been so miserable ever since. I couldn’t find a husband, no husband would marry me! I couldn’t have children, a family. I am all alone. I have had to work so hard . . . (more at Our Shared Journey: Travel in Laos)
 
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For more travel blogs, visit http://journal.legaciesofwar.org
 
The blog chronicles the first trip to Laos by Legacies of War to learn about the local conditions of Laotian villagers affected by cluster bombs and the current infrastructure for bomb removal, education, victim assistance and economic development.
 
Sincerely,Channapha Khamvongsa, Director
channapha@legaciesofwar.org

 

 
 
 

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