Project Sekong 2012: Meet our team. Pang Xi sends her hard-earned pay home to mother.
Pang Xi is the elder of our two female deminers but she’s much more timid than Kik, her younger colleague. Where Kik is gabby and fun loving, Pang Xi is reticent and unassuming. She hasn’t much life experience outside the insular confines of her village but, give her credit, here she is farther from home than ever before, excavating bombs and landmines. She’s ethnically Laven, from the Bolaven Plateau in south-central Laos. She speaks Laven as her first language; Lao as her second.
Pang Xi learned about possible employment with us when her village naiban walked from house to house informing people that Phoenix Clearance Limited (PCL) was recruiting staff and especially hoped to enlist female deminers in an upcoming training program.
I asked Pang Xi how her widowed mother reacted when she broke the news that she was thinking of leaving home to work with unexploded ordnance. Pang Xi laughed when she shared her mother’s response: “Good. We need the money.”
This is Pang Xi’s third outing with a clearance team, so she’s twice before experienced a payday when a sizable amount of cash has been handed to her. She turned each of those payments over to her mother who, in turn, added the cash to the family kitty. When I asked whether she would have liked to use the money to purchase something for herself, perhaps a motorbike or sewing machine, she demurred, saying, “No. It’s better to help the whole family.” She does confess to one indulgence. A few months ago she bought her first cell phone. She now uses it to make daily calls to her mother and five siblings.
Pang Xi hasn’t much formal education; she left school after “level four” and is barely literate. She’s not certain of her exact age but thinks she must be “twenty-five or twenty-six.”
Pang Xi has the least field experience of all our deminers, even less than Kik, who is seven years younger. But…Pang Xi is motivated to learn and to improve. She works hard and never complains; never palms work off on others. She’s proof that women can successfully perform every task associated with UXO clearance. Our crew is stronger for having her as a teammate.