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Project Phongsali 2011: In one small village four children have recently died. Not bombs… illness. But what illness?

March 3, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: In one small village four children have recently died. Not bombs… illness.  But what illness?

Week Four Day Twenty-Eight: As our deminers continued clearing the schoolyard in Kiew Ka Cham village I observed four men working in a stand of trees not far away. When I first spotted them, they were taking turns with a shovel, either digging a hole or leveling a mound; I didn’t have a clear...
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Project Phongsali 2011: When clearing a schoolyard we’d rather be thorough than efficient.

March 2, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: When clearing a schoolyard we’d rather be thorough than efficient.

Week Four Day Twenty-Seven Today we’re clearing the schoolyard in Kiew Ka Cham village.   It’s slow, tedious work since searching for UXO in a heavily trafficked area, such as a school or marketplace, involves excavating a substantial quantity of non-lethal contamination: nails, washers, bolts, bottle tops and fragments of exploded bomb casings. As...
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Project Phongsali 2011: The victims we help are people with families, jobs, hopes, dreams, skills and interests. Meet Mr. Bouncham: beekeeper.

March 1, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: The victims we help are people with families, jobs, hopes, dreams, skills and interests.  Meet Mr. Bouncham: beekeeper.

Week Four Day Twenty-Six We’re still plugging along at Mr. Bouncham’s farm, searching for bombies and marking them for demolition. The rocky soil here is challenging but may, in the end, prove to be an excellent training ground for our novice deminers; they must excavate methodically, deliberately, economically, always alert least they mistake a...
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Project Phongsali 2011: Construction company uncovers bomblets, uses contaminated soil for fill, and then tells landowner to live with the hazard.

February 28, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: Construction company uncovers bomblets, uses contaminated soil for fill, and then tells landowner to live with the hazard.

Week Four Day Twenty-Five I took an immediate liking to Mr. Bouncham, even before I learned that he was a fellow beekeeper.  He’s a happy-go-lucky sort who, like me, enjoys an ironic joke.  When asked whether he felt anger toward the United States because of the bombs that currently plague him, he quickly dismissed...
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Project Phongsali 2011: The photos tell it all. Company builds road without first clearing bombs!

February 27, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: The photos tell it all.  Company builds road without first clearing bombs!

Week Four Day Twenty-Four It’s become clear to me why so many villages are littered with old bomb casings that still contain fuses, boosters and other dangerous components. The construction company that is rebuilding the road that runs through the southern districts of this province is working on uncleared land and is, as one...
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Project Phongsali 2011: We go where UXO threatens people even if it means a day-long hike.

February 26, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: We go where UXO threatens people even if it means a day-long hike.

Week Four Day Twenty-Three One important lesson for anyone who has a job that requires following a Lao farmer into the forest to look for ordnance (or bamboo shoots, or a lost water buffalo, or anything else). If the farmer starts out, takes a few steps, stops, contemplates, and then returns to his house...
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Project Phongsali 2011: The UXO that people want us to remove are large bombs. 500, 750 and even 2,000 pounders.

February 25, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: The UXO that people want us to remove are large bombs.  500, 750 and even 2,000 pounders.

Week Four Day Twenty-Two We’re not quite through our first week of work with the complete team, but I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging that will require us to adapt and adjust. Most mornings we’ve headed out of camp intending to search schoolyards and destroy any ordnance that we find lurking under foot....
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Project Phongsali 2011: A man hand-delivers UXO that he wants to trade. And… to the wrong house. Not the kind of help we need.

February 24, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: A man hand-delivers UXO that he wants to trade.  And… to the wrong house.  Not the kind of help we need.

Week Three Day Twenty-One Every morning speakers hooked to the village public address system issue a community-wide wake up call. First, we’re gifted spirited strains of martial music. Once awake, invigorated and inspired, we hear an enthusiastic reading of the local news. I doubt that villagers ever kick off neighborly small-talk with the question,...
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Project Phongsali 2011: Takes a licking, keeps on ticking? No. Our equipment requires TLC.

February 23, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: Takes a licking, keeps on ticking? No. Our equipment requires TLC.

Week Three Day Twenty: Road conditions here are tough on us and our electronic equipment. Luckily, we humans are largely self-healing. Bounce me down the worst road in the province for a day. I may be coughing dust and spitting mud at the closing bell: stiff, sore, banged up and run down but, even...
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Project Phongsali 2011: Clink! A young mother finds a bomblet by accidentally whacking it with her machete.

February 22, 2011
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Project Phongsali 2011: Clink! A young mother finds a bomblet by accidentally whacking it with her machete.

Week Three Day Nineteen: Today we the headed back to Sop Houn to destroy ordnance that villagers showed us last week. We started with a cluster bomb in a tree plantation. The woman who found the bomblet often carries her children with her to the fields so she can tend to their needs while...
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