This is a presentation by Mr. Ho Van Lai, a survivor of unexploded bombs from Gio Viet, Quang Tri Province, during a panel discussion at George Washington University on November 15, 2019. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Phu, Project RENEW staff member, assisted with translation. In his brief talk, Lai shared with this American audience how losing three limbs and one eye in a cluster munitions explosion created life-changing challenges and opportunities for a Vietnamese boy. Lai was 10 years old when the accident occurred.
This program was an examination of the continuing deadly problem of unexploded bombs that remain from the Vietnam War. Panelists included environmentalists, Vietnam veteran Chuck Searcy who works with Project RENEW, and several staff members from RENEW. This program was part of a conference in Washington, DC hosted in conjunction with the “Waging Peace in Vietnam” traveling exhibition and book publication.
Ho Van Lai now works with Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Risk Education program funded by the government of Ireland. As a collaborator, an experienced teacher, and a powerfully symbolic speaker, Lai conducts risk education sessions organized by RENEW at the Mine Action Visitor Center, at local schools, in village events, and other community functions. He shares guidance about safe behavior with the local people there – especially the children.
The job not only allows Lai to earn enough income to cover his basic living expenses and daily activities, but regular employment and being part of the RENEW team provide him with daily encouragement and motivation to heal the terrible physical and mental scars caused by the cluster bomb blast 21 years ago.
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”. RENEW is the only comprehensive mine action organization in Vietnam that integrates survey and clearance, risk education, and victim assistance into a coordinated program of action