Purpose of the Project
Cambodia is a country located South East Asia, bordered by the Gulf of Thailand, between Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. It has a population of 15 million people. Although the Kingdom of Cambodia is rich in natural resources, decades of war and internal conflict have left it one of the world’s poorest countries. Cambodia’s poor people number almost 4.8 million, and 90 per cent of them are in rural areas. Most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but at least 12 per cent of poor people are landless. Small-scale farmers practice agriculture at the subsistence level, using traditional methods. Productivity is low. Two thirds of the country’s 1.6 million rural households face seasonal food shortages each year.
Children of MineField Village
The U.S invasion and bombing of Cambodia took place more than 50 years ago as a part of the conflict in Vietnam. A major problem that Cambodia faces is the issue of landmines that are littered all over the country, especially in the rural areas.
The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) estimates that there may be as many as four to six million mines and unexploded ordinances in Cambodia. In 1998, there were 1,249 known new casualties. In 2013, the last year that statistics were available, 111 persons were casualties of landmines, 22 were killed and 89 were injured. One-third of the casualties are children.
From 1975 to 1979 Cambodia and its people underwent a devastating genocide. The people who survived now live with the aftermath of the devastation. When the war ended, they did the best they could to pick up the pieces and start over. The MineField Village is land on which five hundred families have squatted and call home.
Since 2009, LightBridge International has been working in this village now referred to as Minefield Village. This village is nestled along a 450 mile border where the largest concentration of land mines in the world is located. MineField Village is 15 miles from the nearest town, Poipet (see map).
The road in to LandMine Village.
The road within the village is a dirt pathway that often gets flooded in the rainy season. It prohibits villagers from mobility in its current state. Likewise, with little transportation or money for such, villagers are not able to get jobs in town and are extremely limited in options for viable work.
Five hundred families call this village home and live as the poorest of the poor. Out of desperation, they have squatted on land no one else wants. It is ground that was filled with land mines planted by the Khmer Rouge some 45 years ago.
Only recently has the land been swept and cleared of its deadly explosives. There is no electricity, little clean water, and very little to eat. Yet these families have built huts and are daily seeking ways to feed their families … they seek ways to merely survive.
Risk of Human Trafficking
MineField Village is close to the town of Poipet on the Cambodian /Thai border, where work is easier to find. People from the village often travel to Thailand to find work as day labourers. They leave their families for months at a time and work menial jobs to provide a paltry income for their families. Villagers are at great risk of human trafficking at this border. It one of the most heavily human trafficked borders on the globe. It is a constant threat and an all-too-real possibility that awaits young women who are desperate to find work.
Ethnic Group, Age Ranges and People Project
The five hundred families who live in MineField Village are all of the Khmer ethnic group of Cambodia. The age range is from infant to 65 years old. Because of the Killing Fields of the Pol Pot regime in the 1970’s, the average age in Cambodia is 30 years old; very few are older than 50 years.
Available Local Resources
Local resources are extremely limited, but include:
- Farming Land
- Rodents that villagers capture and consume
- Fish from local pond
- Indigenous fruit from wild trees/plants
- Wild brush used for roofing
- Wood used for building huts as well as used for cooking fires
Current Project Assets
To date, MineFiled Village has the following building assets:
- Two school buildings
- Shade area
- Rain water collection storage unit
- Medical clinic
- Hand washing station
MineField Village School
Sponsoring a child is dependent upon the generosity of donors. Currently, 135 village children are receiving their education through child sponsorship. Sponsorship also includes hiring of teachers and a school administrator, providing school supplies, as well as providing lunch for all school children each and every school day.
Environmental and Geographical Issues
The land upon which MineField Village exists is a former minefield. Though it has been cleared with three surface level sweeps and one deeper level sweep, the land is still greatly affected by the mines. What used to be fertile jungle was cleared by the Khmer Rouge to plant these mines, so natural vegetation has been stunted. Villagers have begun to clear the land and use it for farming. However, irrigation, lack of equipment and land contamination are major issues limiting production of produce, especially rice.
Blue rain water collection unit.
Three wells of varying depths have been dug at MineField Village. All have been contaminated by arsenic from the land mines. Because of this contamination, a rain water collection unit has been built that houses water for the school to use. However, when weeks pass by and there has been no rain to replenish the storage tanks, the children have drink contaminated water that is drawn from a stagnant pond.
The stagnant pond water is passed through a primitive sand filter (above) which clarifies the water to some degree but does not remove pathogenic bacteria that cause debilitating stomach cramps and fever. Many children and adults in the village suffer from gastroenteritis. Teaching the village people to boil the water that has been passed through a sand filter also proves to be ineffective. Unless the teaching is reinforced on a regular basis, the village people revert back to drinking the polluted pond water. Regular health education is crucial for the well-being of the village people.
The MineField Village Project is an ongoing work with many challenges. In addition to the work that has been taking place, we are expecting the following outcomes:
- Increase student body from 130 to 250 by adding 4-6th grades
- Access to other towns/villages by building a usable and sustainable road
- Provide employment for teachers and women through additional jobs
- Establish a headquarters for the job creation program, LandMine Design
- Provide a solid foundation for expanding development to other communities.
Program Needs for 2017
MineField Village children in their classroom.
We are seeking to expand the work in MineField Village in these categories:
- Provide lunch program and resources for new 4-6th grades
- Hire four more teachers
- Build LandMine Design Headquarters
- Hire in-community manager for LandMine Design
- Build new road into the village
- Hire eight more women in the LandMine Design program.
LandMine Design was created to give women in the MineField a chance to make a living from their own homes where they can care for their families while earning the funds desperately needed to feed their hungry babies. Women in the village are taught the craftsmanship of creating jewellery out of rolled paper beads. As a job creation program, LandMine Design is one more step toward sustainability for the people who call the MineField home.
Potential Health Risks and Risk Assessment
The risk of Malaria or Dengue Fever is constantly present. Likewise, the risk of injury or other illness is always present as well. Travel risks in Cambodia are always a concern. In assessing these health and travel risks, we take a simple approach. We encourage proper vaccinations. We encourage protection against mosquitoes as well as general health precautions. We seek safe transportation to and from all of our locations. We also work hard to ensure that safety is a priority.
Basic Human Rights
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly provides the fundamental mandate of the basic human rights of children everywhere:
- The right to survival.
- The right to development, growth and well-being.
- The right to protection from exploitation, abuse and neglect.
- The right to participate in the family, the social and the cultural context.
The children of MineField Village have these fundamental human rights. They have a difficult journey ahead of them.
Our vision is to protect and nurture the amazing potential that resides within the human spirit of each child. Our endeavour is to offer these children hope for a better future by giving them access to the best possible standard of education. You can be that person. Your gift can is of great value to MineField Village.