November 2013 Newsletter – Message from the Executive Director

Posted: Dec 3, 2013


In This Issue

• Message from the Executive Director

• News from Laos

• Presentation on war, memory at the ASA Conference

• Support Legacies of War


Channapha Khamvongsa, Titus Peachey, Jennifer Phongsavan, & Davorn Sisavath

Our Calendar

Dec. 3-18: Legacies’ Field Visit to Xieng Khoang, Savannakhet and Pakse

Support Us and Our Mission!

Things to do this Month:


1. Download the Anatomy of a Cluster Bomb mobile app created by Springbrook HS students for Legacies of War! (Android phones only)


2. Start planning to volunteer your time at Legacies of War. We have various events and programs scheduled for next year in celebration of our 10 year anniversary! Keep an eye on our events’ webpage.


3. Show your holiday spirit and make a tax-deductible donation to Legacies of War by the end of the year! Click here to donate now!


Thank You to Our Donors This Month!

Kate Beck, Michael Burton, David Claycomb, Geoffrey Hutchinson, Chanida Phaengdara, and Elaine Russell


As you plan for your year-end giving, please consider supporting Legacies of War.

Thank you /
Kop chai / Ua koj tsaug





Legacies of War made its first learning trip to Laos in 2008, which helped to tell the stories of UXO in Lao, and informed its education and advocacy strategy (Photo Credit: Boon Vong)


Message from the Executive Director


Sabaidee from Vientiane,


Every year, representatives from Legacies of War travel to Laos to learn about the progress of the UXO sector. We meet with our key partners, including governments, NGOs, and individuals and communities, whose lives are impacted by the presence of UXO. Our first trip was in 2008, thanks to the support of the Ford Foundation, where we learned about the then little-known UXO sector comprised of a handful of groups and donors working to address the overwhelming 30-year old problem of leftover UXO from the Vietnam-era war.


On the trip, we heard about the extent of the problem – over 20,000 casualties since the end of the war, less than one-percent of the estimated 270 million clusters munitions dropped had been cleared, and there were still about 300 casualties annually. We also saw brave and well-trained men and women, mostly Lao nationals, clearing land to make it safe for villagers again. We listened to survivors, such as Bounmy and Thoummy in Xieng Khoang, tell about how their lives were forever changed by an UXO accident and how access to rehabilitation and training helped them to live active, productive lives. And we saw how young school children were taught about the dangers of UXO.


We met many people and organizations dedicated to addressing the UXO issue and we left that initial trip, inspired and committed to joining their efforts to clear land, support victims and educate a new generation about the dangers of UXO. Legacies of War’s visit was critical in informing our education and advocacy in the US. It would eventually lead to the first US congressional hearing on UXO in Laos and the doubling of US funding to the sector— from an average of $2 million to $5 million in 2010. Since then, there’s  greater visibility and financial support to address the UXO problem in Laos, including an increase to $9 million from the US (2012) and an increase by all donors to the sector, from about $12 million to $30 million. This has led to greater numbers of demining teams and hectares cleared, increased data collection and communications capacity, and reduction in casualties to less than 75 in recent years.  Despite this, overall clearance is falling short of national goals and according to the recent national victims assistance survey, there are nearly 10,000 survivors that still need support. The current status of the UXO sector makes this year’s trip particularly timely.


We are excited about this year’s visit to Laos for the opportunity to learn about the prospects of new innovation and increased cooperation that could bring significant progress to the UXO sector in the next decade. This trip will include meetings in Vientiane to hear an update from governments and NGOs about their progress and plans for the coming years. We’ll also make field visits to Xieng Khoang, Savannakhet and Pakse to meet with clearance teams and to visit with communities living in UXO-affected areas. As with previous visits, we are optimistic that the trip will be informative and inspiring, helping to formulate our education and advocacy strategies in 2014 and beyond.

News from Laos

UXO Highlighted at the 11th Round Table Meeting of Development Partners in Vientiane


This November, The High Level Round Table Meeting convened partners contributing to development programs in Laos. The meeting, organized by the Government of Laos with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), occurs every three years and involves all levels of government as well as non profit associations and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs). It provides an opportunity for participants to discuss the progress of development goals in Laos. Specific to the UXO issue, development partners encouraged a stronger emphasis on completing surveys to identify the precise locations of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO). This would help to advance Millenium Development Goal 9 clearance targets while also releasing land for social and economic use. Other priority issues raised include macroeconomic management and growth, off-track Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), governance reform and development cooperation for effective results.

Read More Here


Happy Hmong New Year!


A Hmong girl in traditional dress during a Hmong New Year celebration. (Photo Credit: Paul Wager)


The Hmong New Year’s celebration is underway! Right after the rice harvest, typically between the months of November and January, the Hmong of Laos celebrate their annual New Year festivities to honor their ancestors, prepare for the upcoming new year, strengthen community ties and meet new friends. The festival features at least three days of celebration in colorful and ornate traditional costumes and activities such as ball tossing, song contests, Qeej (reed pipe instrument) performances and various sporting activities. Some of the larger events in the US include Fresno, Sacramento, St. Paul, and Milwaukee, although celebrations occur across the country. We hope everyone gets to enjoy the company of their loved ones and the abundance of their harvest during this period of celebration!

Presentation on war, memory at the American Studies Association Conference

Presentation at the ASA Conference by Legacies’ Former intern and Doctoral Candidate, Davorn Sisavath (3rd from left).


On November 21-24, 2013, the American Studies Association held its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., where former intern and doctoral candidate, Davorn Sisavath, presented on her research about war, memory, and narratives of Lao refugees. She presented on the panel,“Refugee Archival Memory: Disrupting the U.S. Logics of Freedom and Debt in Hmong/Lao History” by engaging refugee art, literature, and testimonies to explore the absence of the “secret war” in the histories of the Cold War and to invoke alternative knowledge and memories. Davorn Sisavath’s paper entitled, “(Re)Telling of Marginalized War Memories: Lao Refugee Narratives,” turns to refugee narratives to think about the profound losses incurred in war, and what it means to (re)tell refugee narratives that were forgotten, denied and appended to the official government record. During her work at Legacies of War, Davorn collected refugee narratives and illustrations from Legacies’ online archive.


The narratives and illustrations analyzed also included Fred Branfman’s Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War (2013), and the Appendix II of the 1971 congressional hearings to investigate problems connected with refugees. She argues that these narratives are cultural forms connected to historical records of war, and should be used as primary texts – a body of legitimated knowledge reflecting the memory and experiences of Lao refugees that can open up new ways for thinking about the war. She concludes that refugee memories cannot be reduced to an afterthought, relegated to the appendix of the congressional records, and forgotten because of the lingering effects of over 270 million tons of bombs dropped in Laos remain in batter landscape and rest in maimed bodies. These narratives refuse closure and hold as much joy as terror, and they account for what Lao are left with and how they deal with the remains of war. For her dissertation work, she plans to examine the “secret war” in Laos, to show how war is never over for those who must continue to live and/or disrupted by war’s remnants.

We are “sabaii sabaii” but we hope you plan ahead to support Legacies!


“Sabaii sabaii,” is a term used to wish people good health and is often used to describe the relaxed nature of many people in Laos. Lao PDR is even affectionately referred to as Lao “People Don’t Rush”. So as the year-end nears, we hope you are “sabaii sabaii” but that you plan ahead by committing to give to Legacies before the end of the year. Or better yet, make your annual gift to Legacies today! What a sabaii feeling that would be!

Whether you do it now, or later, we hope you consider giving to Legacies of War so together, we can continue to help save lives and finish this job!

Category: Newsletters