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Landmine Clearance in Cambodia: A Tour of The HALO Trust’s Work

Posted by anadin on April 4th, 2012

Gearing up for the field

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Lee, an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving. Jacqueline is currently making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

Today, across the world, governments, organizations, and individuals are commemorating International Mine Awareness Day. It is an important opportunity for victims of landmines to speak out, and for all of us to build awareness about the effects of landmines long after conflicts have ended. Here at GlobalGiving, we are proud to work with numerous organizations that are clearing minefields around the world, including The HALO Trust, an organization working to clear landmines in 13 countries around the world.

There are still hundreds of thousands of landmines in Cambodia; not only were they laid by the Khmer Rouge, a brutal regime that ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s, but also the Vietnamese army, in its efforts to contain Khmer Rouge forces, and later, the new Cambodian army. Since 1979, there have been more than 63,000 landmine casualties in the country.

My Visit to The HALO Trust

"Lifesticks"

Recently, my colleague, Alexis Nadin, and I had the chance to receive a real-life tour of a minefield being cleared by The HALO Trust’s field team in Cambodia. We visited a minefield that is part of the infamous K5, a large swath of densely-mined land stretching across 21 northern border districts in Cambodia.

On our way out to the field, Alexis and I were surprised by the number of yellow sticks we passed on the sides of the road. Stanislav Damjanovic, HALO’s Deputy Programme Manager in Cambodia, explained that each stick represents a destroyed landmine. I deemed them “life sticks,” what could have been tombstones are now indicators of lives that have been spared.

Cambodian Deminer

By the time we arrived at the site, HALO’s field team had already found 6 landmines that day. As we walked towards the makeshift field office, the local field officer signaled for us to wait for a blast. We were taken aback by the loud BOOM of a landmine being exploded by HALO’s expert field team in the distance. It was at that moment that Alexis and I looked at one another, thinking about what we had gotten ourselves into.

Alexis and I geared up, having received in-depth security and safety briefings, and then were off to experience a day in the life of a de-miner. We followed HALO’s staff as they navigated the field, weaving between yellow sticks, and being careful not to cross any red sticks, which signaled uncleared land.

Destroying a landmine...

Well-trained deminers, hired from local communities, were carefully scanning grids with specially-designed metal detectors. And as the afternoon sun beat down on us in our Kevlar vests and massive helmets, we began to truly appreciate the dedication and resilience of HALO’s team.

Stanislav asked Alexis and I if we would like to destroy one of the mines – so we had the opportunity of a lifetime to press the button that would prevent a future tragedy.  It was an intense thirty seconds waiting for the explosion… then BOOM, a loud jolt went off that shook even my camera while I was filming. This was a small mine – I could not imagine standing next to it when it accidentally goes off or even when coming across a larger tank mine.

Later in the day, we traveled to one of the many fields that The HALO Trust has not been able to clear due to funding limitations. We stood in the backyard of a small family home and looked out into a minefield. It was here that the true implications of HALO’s work sunk in. Although The HALO Trust has cleared over 17,350 acres and destroyed more than 245,700 landmines, the risk is still high in rural Cambodia.

Standing in the backyard of a family home looking out into a minefield...

Children still play and walk to school on paths that wind through uncleared minefields. Parents and grandparents still take daily risks, farming on land that has never been cleared.

Our day with HALO was incredible. The work they are doing on the ground in Cambodia is crucial to the continued development of the country. Having witnessed for myself the harmful impact of minefields first hand, I would like to invite you to help clear another landmine in Cambodia this Mine Awareness Day. Consider making a donation to HALO Trust’s project in Cambodia.

Check out GlobalGiving’s other mine clearance projects:

Announcing GlobalGiving’s Video Contest Winners!

Posted by anadin on March 1st, 2012

We’re excited to announce the five winners of GlobalGiving’s first-ever video contest! We received 93 submissions from project leaders around the globe. Our judge at Green Living Project, Laura Knudson, was very impressed by all of the submissions; here’s what she had to say:

Judging the Global Giving video contest has truly been an honor.  There were so many great videos telling amazing and compelling stories with great vision and creativity.  Picking just 5 of the dozens of superb submissions was very hard to do, but in the end the top videos were chosen based on their quality, creativity, and the ability to engage and inspire.  Thank you to every one of you involved in these wonderful programs.  You inspire with your storytelling, and the important work you do. Congratulations to the winners, and to all of you for giving your hearts for a better world!

While making the decision was incredibly difficult, below are the five winners that she chose (they are listed in no particular order).  Click on any of the videos to watch – and enjoy!

Waste Ventures:

Waste Ventures aims to permanently raise 100 waste picker families out of poverty in the next year by providing them with a blueprint for environmentally processing garbage to increase incomes 3x and allow their children to go to school. Visit the Take 100 Waste Pickers in India out of Poverty project. 

Waves for Water:

Surfers travel. They chase waves and travel to interesting places. But, many of these places have little access to clean water. The Waves for Water Karma Kit provides a traveler an opportunity to help. It’s a simple kit containing a filtration system, canteen, fin key, surf wax and other needed items. The idea is simple…you help fund another person to give the gift of water next time he/she travels. Visit the Karma Kit: W4W & Clean Water Courier Missions project. 

More Than Me:

More Than Me Foundation helps get girls off the street and into school in one of the world’s most notorious slums in Liberia, West Africa. We work with community leaders to identify the girls who are at the highest risk of being sexually exploited to ensure that education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, shape their lives. We pay tuition and provide them school lunch. We work with the school and community to make it impossible for them to fail. Visit the 500 Girls Off The Street & Into School In Liberia projet.

Trees, Water and People:

Trees, Water & People (TWP) is driving development in Haiti through social enterprise. Over the past 16 months, TWP has been working to build a sustainable market for clean cookstoves in Port-au-Prince, creating much needed employment & allowing families to safely prepare food, purify water, and save money. The Zanmi Pye Bwa cookstove is designed to be built, repaired, and refurbished with locally available skills and resources, and is currently being distributed by vendors throughout the city. Visit the 1,500 Clean Cookstoves for Haitian Families project.

Meet Kate: 

The Meet Kate Foundation is building a primary school with sport and playground facilities in Ekwamkrom Ghana, providing quality education for 200 children in this small community. This school will have small classrooms and provide the children with computer classes. 20% of these children will be on a full scholarship. We have put several things in place to make this project sustainable, like a 6 acre cacao plantation and a poultry farm. This school will be self-reliant within 3-5 years. Visit the Primary Education For 200 Village Children – Ghana  project. 

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Each of the winners will have the opportunity be featured in the GlobalGiving and Green Living Project social media! There were some incredible videos submitted during this contest, and they’re all  featured on their respective project pages. If you’re a GlobalGiving project leader, get your camera ready for our third annual photo contest this July!