Gio Linh, Quang Tri (3 April 2021) – Project RENEW’s representatives on Saturday joined with Quang Tri provincial authorities, and international mine action organizations including Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), PeaceTrees Vietnam (PTVN) and Gio Linh District Youth Union, in a public gathering to celebrate the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, 4 April.
Since 2005, the United Nations General Assembly has declared 4 April to be International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. This year the UN called for continued efforts by States, with the assistance of the United Nations and relevant organizations, to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive ordnance constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.
The public gathering, which was hosted by Quang Tri Mine Action Center, took place in Cửa Việt, a former U.S. Marine Corps base during the war, now a popular tourist attraction in Quang Tri Province. The event was aimed at reinforcing the community’s awareness of the lingering impact of explosive ordnance, incorporating environmental protection messages. Nearly 400 people including field operators from MAG and PTVN, staff from Quang Tri Mine Action Center and Quang Tri Department of Foreign Affairs, and members of Gio Linh Youth Union who attended the gathering later collected litter from Cua Viet beach.
Unfortunately and tragically, the staff of RENEW/NPA had to cancel their participation in Saturday’s event at the last minute. Only a couple of hours before the event, 25-year-old Tran Van Hao, deputy team leader of RENEW/NPA and a resident of Gio Linh District, died from fatal injuries resulting from a motorbike accident that occurred when he was riding home from work on Friday afternoon. Hao was a friend to everyone on the RENEW/NPA staff and a respected deputy team leader. His RENEW/NPA colleagues are deeply saddened by this tragedy.
Representing RENEW/NPA staff who could not attend the event, Project RENEW’s Coordination Manager Nguyen Hieu Trung and Victim Assistance/Disability Support Program Manager Dang Quang Toan handed over 10 wheelchairs and tricycles funded by Irish Aid to severely disabled persons, explosive ordnance survivors who live in Gio Linh District.
Triple amputee Ho Van Lai, of Cua Viet Town, was among those who received a tricycle at the event. In 2000, Lai was seriously injured in an explosion of a cluster bomb near his home that killed two of his cousins. Lai was ten years old then.
“The aftermath of my accident was horrendous. From a normal kid, I was turned into a severely disabled one,” said Lai who now works with Project RENEW’s Risk Education Program as a collaborator, disseminating safety information to children and adults and encouraging them to report discoveries of explosives to mobile disposal teams for timely destruction.
“Mine Action has helped me re-integrate into the community as a helpful person to society,” Lai said. “Thanks to Mine Action, disabled persons like me are positively welcomed by the community, so our lives nowadays are much more comfortable than before.”
Through Gio Linh District Youth Union, RENEW also provided 42.5 million VNĐ to support five other families of disabled persons affected by the historic flooding that occurred in mid-October last year. This is part of the flood relief donations from U.S. veterans and other Americans to a fundraising campaign launched by Friends of Project RENEW, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, U.S. Army veteran Ronald L. Haeberle, whose photographs brought the My Lai Massacre to the attention of the world, and Ron Carver, co-author of Waging Peace in Vietnam.
Project RENEW was established in 2001 as a joint effort between the government of Quang Tri Province and interested INGOs to “restore the environment and neutralize the effects of the war”.