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  • Day16

    Peace Trees Khe Sanh and Dong Ha

    October 25, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    This morning we woke early for a busy day with staff from Peace Trees Vietnam. Van Ahn Vu picked us up at our guesthouse in Dong Ha and drove us to their main in-country office just outside of town. Their US office is in Seattle. Along the way she explained that the organization has five main components.

    1. Clearing the land of unexploded ordinance
    2. Building and staffing preschool kindergartens and training school kids to be safe in the countryside
    3. Providing scholarships to kids or adults in families where the main breadwinner has been injured by unexploded ordinance
    4. Encouraging rural families to plant small vegetable gardens on their land
    5. Agricultural consultation with area farmers

    Their main headquarters doubles as an office and training center for area kids. She explained that the organization busses children from the provinces most affected by the presence of unexploded bombs, grenades, and mortar shells. These areas are concentrated in the two provinces closest to the Lao border and along route 9, the east/west highway most heavily defended by the US during the war. Van Ahn also asked us to plant two trees in the forest around the headquarters. It seems when they began, with the normalization of relations back in 1995 they asked all visitors to plant trees on the then barren land. Now it's a forest and we planted the two latest saplings. Now the kids who come to the training center also camp out in the forest. Pretty cool!

    After our intro we got back in the car and headed up to Khe Sanh where a demining team was busy clearing several hectares of land. The work area was adjacent to three previous US bases. The team used a sophisticated grid pattern and series of markers to slowly run metal detectors over the land. It seemed it would take them about one and a half days to clear about two acres of land. With the teams thay have operating at present Van Ahn noted that it would take about 300 years to clear the whole areas most effected. Seven years to plant the seeds of destruction and 350 to clean up the mess. I wonder how long it will take in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. This doesn't even take into account the armies that we profit from selling weapons to. During our visit they found two unexploded bombs from a cluster bomb that had failed to detonate. Augie took a video of the detonation here:

    Fortunately our day wasn't over yet. Next we drove out into a village adjacent to Khe Sanh to visit a kindergarten. The money for the building came from a church on Bainbridge Island in Washington. Hence the name, Grace Church Kindergarten. Each kindergarten that they building has a main schoolroom, kitchen, bathroom, playground, and library. The kids attending are between three and five years old. Each kid gets a meal during the school day. Most of the kids are from local indigenous families and are not able to speak Vietnamese when the arrive. They are staffed by teachers paid by the government. So far the organization has built 10 kindergartens. If one is interested in funding a school, the cost is around 30k. A video taken during the visit is here:

    All in all a pretty good day. Augie and I both think we've found a really solid place to send some funds down the road.
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