Vietnam Magazine: Students Sell ‘Lollies For Laos’

June 1, 2010

Sixth grade students in Wausau, Wisconsin, who are learning about the Vietnam War in the classroom, have begun a project they hope will help protect kids their age in Laos from injury or death resulting from bombs dropped on their homeland some four decades ago. Sue Thompson, a teacher at D.C. Everest Middle School explained, “Our former principal, Jim Harris, has been raising money for his trips to Laos to remove bombs and unexploded ordnance there. The students have had sucker sales in the past, and a ‘Lollies for Laos’ project seemed pefect.” Their goal is to raise $2,000. The project complements a course on what the lives of middle school children are like in different parts of the world.

Harris shares pictures and stories of his work in Laos with the students. It was a result of his close connection with Wausau’s sizable Hmong refugee community that Harris began traveling to Laos in 2006 to work with villagers. In 2009 he started the nonprofit We Help War Victims organization to increase awareness of the unexploded ordnance problems in Laos and to raise funds to continue bomb abandonment.

Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dropped 270 million cluster bombs on Laos, and up to 30 percent of them never exploded. “We tell people in the villages if they find a bomb anywhere, if they let me know I’ll have my team there to make it safe within 48 hours,” Harris said. In his first six months, 1000 bombs were safely detonated.

According to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an impartial humanitarian organization that clears bombs for communities worldwide, the United States dropped more bombs on Laos than it did on all of Europe during World war II, making it the most heavily bombed country in the world. The American bombing was an attempt to disrupt Communist supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, much of which ran through Laos.

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