By Bill Cuff from Unlimited Possibilities
Unlimited Possibilities supports the amazing work of RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War) that removes explosives in the de-militarized zone of the Vietnam War. RENEW’s efforts have reduced the casualties of farmers and children who encounter bombs in their fields from hundreds a year to just one death in 2016. That death was a to a RENEW worker when a bomb he was removing went off, the first injury to a RENEW worker after ten years and over 30,000 explosives located and destroyed.
We met her a month ago. UP walked into her tiny concrete bunker of a house that is clinging to the side of a steep hill in the mountains of North Vietnam near Khe Sanh, the site of some of the most horrific fighting during the War. The house where she has lived for four years with her two young children was dark and dusty and there was absolutely no furniture in any of the two rooms we passed through on our way to the third that she had converted into a kitchen of sorts. A small fire was smoldering on the concrete floor. She proudly displayed her cooking pot containing a meal her neighbors had been kind enough to provide for her and the children, a string of weasel entrails.
Today she woke up to the sounds of her 3 year old daughter laughing and swinging above her on the tiny hammock she had converted into a jungle vine in her imagination. She lingered a moment to savor the new feeling of being in a bed with her family for the first time in their lives. Her simple prosthesis made a thumping sound on the floor as she left the bed. Every three years RENEW provides an inexpensive prosthesis with a circular pivot on the end to replace the ones she wears out walking in the mountains.
She goes outdoors to her new kitchen area, takes some of her two month supply of food, cooks it on her new stove and places it on her new table. She fills her new water purifier with water she has hauled from the village well and knows her kids won’t get sick as often. She notices how much brighter her house looks now that it is painted yellow. She looks out over her new cowshed across the field to watch her neighbor place the last brick on his cowshed. He too lost his leg in that field. She thinks she hears the footsteps of her new cow on the path to her house where it will spend its life lifting her family farther above subsistence. And maybe for a moment before she calls her family to breakfast, she’ll turn her eyes skyward and wonder at that small group who came from far away to bring a hint of justice to her and help lift her family above a level of poverty where no one should have to live. She doesn’t smile a lot, but today she smiles.