Today was a very big day for the foundation as well for a lot of very happy children. Today was the dedication ceremony for the school YOU all had built!!!! I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I will say that this was a pretty humbling day for me personally. I cant thank you all enough for allowing me to represent you. You all are the ones that should be thanked and if it wasn’t for YOUR hard work and dedication to this cause, today would not have been possible. Its amazing how an idea can unfold into this. Your presence is felt, your impact is undeniable and your outpouring of support does not go unnoticed. This should be a notice to all people that WE CAN ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING WE WANT!!!!!
I had a chance to speak during the ceremony and as often as I could, I let the people of this village know that you all are the true benefactors of the gratitude shown by all.
The day started much like the rest of the days here, bright and early. I met Bora downstairs of the hostel I was staying at and we headed out to the field (Bora runs the EOD team). We set off for Battampang. It was going to be a couple hour drive. We actually were working about 100Km past Battampang along the Thai border. The most heavily mined area in Cambodia.
Side note….. The whole time I could not stop thinking about my first trip out. I had met with MAG on my first trip in Battampang. And now I was heading back to the place that I was first exposed to this work. On that trip I was merely a spectator. This trip I was attached to the EOD team for CSHD (Cambodian Self-Help Demining). It just reminded me of how far WE have come in such a short time. I never would have thought WE would have taken this idea to where WE have.
We arrived to the field and got to work. We checked the map and saw the progress the team has been making over the past 5 days. They had found 8 land mines in that period of time. They still had over 100,000.00 square meters to clear…. Its amazing how this work is accomplished and the dedication of these men and woman. They spend 25 days straight out in the field with only 5 days off at home. Thats 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
As we walked the field it was a much different feeling this time. As I was just spectating their work, I was going to be detonating what they had found at the end of the day. Handling different “tools of the trade”. Its almost like you’ve seen one field you have seen them all. Not that I was taking it lightly…. make no mistake, my steps were directly in the footprints of Bora who was leading me out. And yes… I had to make known my blood type again. That in itself heightens your awareness.
We located what had been found and also had determined the spot where it would be detonated. We called the deminers off the field around 3:30pm. We do not set any explosives while there are people working the field for obvious reasons. We headed out with one other member of the EOD team and secured the plastic explosives from a lockbox that is set off of the field a safe distance. Walked the explosives and the detonation cable to the site where we had dug a pit. We would not be remotely detonating this time. We placed the land mines in the pit and covered them with dirt. We then placed the plastic explosive over those mines and covered that too with dirt. We retreated to a safe distance that was about 150 meters away. We are normally 300 meters away because we normally detonate cluster munitions along with whatever it is we have found. And its also normally closer to the surface because we do not touch or move the cluster bombs due to them being so volatile. Before we left the are where we had set the explosives, we made sure that the “centuries” were in place. We have 3 members of the team placed around the field to assure no one (civilians) walk into the field during a detonation. While it is unlikely, we are concerned about secondary detonations due to the shock wave that is sent through the ground. Its possible that it could set off the unfound UXO.
We did our thing and detonated the mines. Then we headed back to the site to clear up the remains of what we detonated. After this we headed to camp with the rest of the team. They were getting cleaned up and preparing to have dinner. I was reminded of playing baseball and how we all acted after we had finished a game and were suiting down. Laughing and scratching, poking fun at each other…. a lot of camaraderie. These men and woman work under extreme conditions. The heat is at times paralyzing. The equipment is bulky and heavy. Air does not flow through the uniform/gear. Not to mention the stress of hunting for things that have the potential of killing you, and truly you have no clue where they might be…. I hope this can shed some light and give you all some perspective to what is happening here and what/who you are supporting. These people are the meaning of HERO… While it is a job to them, this job requires you to risk it all every minute, every second, and every step you take during the day. AND there are two members of the team that have fallen victim to a land mine detonation. They are both below the elbow amputees, each missing a hand. Yet they choose to head into a mine field as to prevent anyone else having to go through what they did. Truly inspiring men….I never saw them NOT smiling.
Every time I land in this amazing country I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be here on behalf of all of you that support this cause. Personally, being here brings me great peace. Driving in from the airport this morning I reflected back onto the first trip I made. How anxious I was to get started and see what that trip would have in store for me. I began to compare that trip to today….. And I still have the same anxious feelings and wonderment about what will come out of this trip. I think about the relationships that have been fostered and the partnerships that have been solidified. Its truly remarkable where WE have taken this idea in just a few short years. Its amazing to think that I will be visiting a school that WE built and sharing in a party with all the children WE are helping.
Had a wonderful birthday dinner with Bill and Jill Morse tonight and discussed the weeks affairs. Tomorrow morning I will be heading out to the field with the EOD team and with the deminers. Not sure how many nights Ill be out but will for sure post as soon as I can.
Once again I am very proud to be here representing all of you that support the foundation. Ill repeat this a million times….. I just facilitated this trip, you all created it.
Another amazing day spent with the people of this amazing country… I was up early again and out in the rural countryside…. riding down the road in a tuk-tuk I get a real sense of what life is like for the majority of people living in this country. I get to feel the road and all its bumps. The smells of the small villages starting their morning fires, and listening to the traffic as we make it out of town.
Our journey took us a little over an hour. Might have taken 20 minutes had there been a paved road to travel.. We pass many children on bikes and many others riding 3 on moto’s. To them this is a normal way to travel.. You get a real sense of their strength realizing that many of these children make this ride every morning into town to shop for food, and some travel great distances to try and get an education.
We pulled onto a small dirt road that was basically a driveway. It opened up to a small hut and there was probably 20 or 30 children running around… all in some way related or close friends. You get how much “community” is important to the people of this country. And living out this far from town, everything is shared within the village.
Of course, there was a look of wonderment on everyones face…. unsure what to expect from me and why I was even there. My driver soon explained to the adults that were around what my mission was and what I was there to do… Smiles all around!!!! And the kids got super excited!!! I think that is my favorite part of what we do with “Presents for Presence”…. seeing their faces as they realize they are about to receive a gift from some guy from half way around the world… and seeing the looks on the adults faces when they find out that it was all donated from you all at home just for them.. It really is priceless….
I gave out more clothes and toys… and then came the soccer and volleyballs… Over the past few days I really get that sports is a universal language. It does not matter what sport it is, we all can relate on that level… and to play with the children and even the adults allows for a connection regardless of the language barrier..
We must have pumped up 30 balls…. everyone got their own.. We also put up a volleyball net and the games began… We played volleyball till we were all soaking wet with sweat..
Its hard to describe how hot and humid it is here right now… Being monsoon season, its 97-100 degrees out and 100% humidity…
It was a great time being able to spend the day with these wonderful men, woman, and children. All that received clothes immediately tried them on… Somewhat of a fashion show. They were so proud of their new things. Not one of them walked around without their new ball or toy as well. And the parents and relatives of the kids were so thankful to see their little ones with their new things..
Thank you all for allowing me to continue this mission. I hope that in the future you will be able to be here in person and experience this first hand.. For the meantime, I will carry your message and I hope you all realize that your presence is felt.
Had another wonderful day on your behalf…. Headed out pretty early again this morning with a new tuk-tuk driver… It is always great to see the look on their faces when I tell them what I want to do. It inspires them in a way.. much like it has inspired all of you at home to continue to support this cause. I get to see the wheels turn in their heads as they try to figure out where to take me.. I also get to see the smile on their face when they get involved in handing the gifts out.. not to mention the smiles on the children’s faces…
We set out to find a bicycle pump and a needle to be able to blow up the soccer and volleyballs. This was harder than it might seem.. We had no problem finding a pump, but finding a needle was a different story. While we were searching around town for one, it began to dawn on me again the little things we take for granted. My trips have continued to remind me how lucky we truly are at home. Something as simple as a crayon, dental floss, bubbles or now a needle for a pump are all things we just “know” ,and are fairly easy for us to get. It also drives home how important it is that we continue our “Presents for Presence” campaign. That these little gifts and offerings that I get to bring have the potential to change a life.. and I believe that they do.
After the hour or so of searching every little shop in town, we were successful. With a pump and needle in hand we were ready to hit the country side and deliver these gifts.
While it is harvest season, most children are working with their families in the fields. However we were able to pull of the road and find some kids… I think the pictures speak for themselves. I was able to hand out some clothes, toys, and of course soccer and volleyballs. We had a great time playing with everything..
We played for about 45 minutes until we were both soaking wet with sweat… It is extremely hot and humid this time of year. I also found some bubbles in my bag that went over extremely well as they always do. After spending about an hour with this group of kids and their families we headed back towards town.. I can only carry so much on these journeys so I will be back out tomorrow with more to hand out.
As we got into town, I was greeted by a friend. Some of you may recognize him from past trips over here. Mot Douk….. He is like a beacon of joy in this town. I cant help but smile when I see this man. His story is amazing and like most victims of land mines… he does not beg. He takes great pride in working to provide for his family. Mot sells books to support his family. I think I have bought every book he has to sell and then some. Every time I am here I run into him at some point. We know a lot of the same people and it is always nice to see him still out here doing his thing.. He fills me in on his family and how they are doing and just as important he gives me the inside scoop on whats happening in town. If you ever need to find anything out about Siem Reap….. Mot is your man!!
I also met someone whom I have never seen before in town. He is much like Mot however this gentleman is missing both legs… He rides around on his own makeshift tuk-tuk. Peddles it with his arms and he told me he made the entire thing himself. He too is out here to work, not to beg. He too is a victim of a land mine. Teng Dara is his name and he also sells books. I am never at a loss to find inspiration while I am here. These two men, regardless of their circumstance, are continuing to accept responsibility and provide for their families…
I get to meet so many amazing people while I am on these trips. I would be foolish to think that any of this would occur if it wasn’t for all you wonderful people at home that continue to give, support and create awareness for this cause. You all should feel just as proud as I do. Don’t ever forget that you are making a difference on the other side of the globe. Its truly remarkable what we, collectively can and have accomplished thus far… And its only the beginning…
YOU ALL ARE HERE WITH ME!
I will be landing in Cambodia in a few short hours and I cannot help but feel grateful….. I would not be able to make these journey’s or be able to make our presence felt in Cambodia without all of your continued support… It truly is an experience that you are the creators of. I am only the vessel that caries your message. I know it was short notice and the lead time up to this trip did not allow for our usual “Presents for Presence” event, but think about this. In that short time I received 300 soccer balls and volleyballs and nets. I also was given a lot of clothing and toys to hand out as well.. That to me is remarkable and a true testament to the dedication, commitment and support of all of you that have “bought in” to the cause. You all show your support in so many different ways and without it, we wouldn’t function at the level we do. In the trips that have been made so far, we have reached more than 1000 people with our “Presents for Presence” campaign. We have been able to put thousands of dollars into funding for de-mining operations, saving an untold number of people from injury and or death.
I continue to be inspired by all of your support. This trip, I will be looking at the site where we are going to be building a school for hundreds of children. This may be their first opportunity at an education. This impact becomes generational and I don’t think we could put a number on the amount of people that this will benefit.
I hope you all are as inspired as I am….. I know for myself it brings me great peace to be in Cambodia on all of your behalf.. We are making a difference… We are changing lives… We are building a future free of the past for the people of this wonderful country!!!
I love you All!!! Thank you!
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