MiVACs Help is Heartwarming


You may know that I am the Patron of MiVAC which is a charity started 9 years ago by the Tunnel Rats from the Vietnam War. A member of MiVAC followed up the work of MiVAC at Kohai village where 3 school grounds had been cleared of Unexploded Ordinance (bombs and mines). Can you imagine any of our children playing in a school ground with bombs in it? What a difference has now been made! Read below Steve and Dorene Carroll's report of their work.

A Christmas Present with a Difference is Heartwarming


The children at remote Thongsene Secondary School at Ban Kohai in Laos have received a special Xmas present, thanks to the generosity of MiVAC volunteers and donors.

Steve and Dorene Carroll of Medowie in Port Stephens, NSW, travelled to Laos in June 2010 to assess the needs of this far-flung school, which sits astride the infamous Ho Chi Min Trail.  Up until last year the school grounds had been heavily contaminated with unexploded bombs and some children had been killed or maimed.  At that time MiVAC initiated a clearance program removing most of the deadly war legacy.  This humanitarian act created another problem, an influx of students and subsequent overcrowding.  “There were about forty to a hundred kids camping in grass and bamboo lean-to’s on the school grounds” Mr Carroll said.  “What was far worse was the lack of basic facilities.  One toilet and one well with a bucket to service six hundred students and teachers.  Try to imagine that!” he added.

It was evident to the Carrolls that disaster was looming in the way of disease if something wasn’t done and done quickly.

Returning home they began to canvas service clubs in the Hunter region for funds to help finance the project, putting up $10,000 themselves.  The aim was to build two dormitories, two toilets with wash basins, refurbish a well and reticulate water from it to the buildings via a water tank and tower.

On November 16th Steve and his daughter Natalie arrived back in Lao to start the ball rolling.  Because of visa limitations Steve set a timetable of three weeks to completion, a tough ask in such a remote place.

“From the outset I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the entire community.  Where possible, everything was procured or manufactured locally” Steve said.  “Cement blocks were made on site, local timber and bamboo were utilised, sand was carted up from the river by the kids during breaks and during the whole process everyone kept smiling.” he continued.

The Carrolls had to commute a round trip of forty kilometres daily in a hired tuk-tuk, over a tooth rattling excuse for a road, but the scene on arrival was always a compensation.  “It was as though Santa’s little helpers had been there during the night” Steve exclaimed.

Twelve days after commencing, the first tap was turned on and water ran at the part-finished ablutions block, two hundred metres from its source.  In an unexpected turn of events Steve was asked to address and sign autographs for some of the students.  He signed over two hundred pads on behalf of MiVAC and Australia.  This is what he had to say about that.  “I can’t describe the humility that I experienced at that time.  Hundreds of kids lining up to look me in the eye and wish blessings on all things Australian.  I walked into the door frame on my way out, something was blurring my vision.  I want to share this with all of you because it was meant for all of you.”
A ripple effect has already begun as a result of this project.  Because of it, a half acre of corn has been planted.  “The children will need food.”  One hundred fruit trees have been planted and an English speaking teacher appointed.  The school is still in need of a musical keyboard and some sort of library.  “They’ll have to wait till I save a bit more money” was Mr Carroll’s closing remark.
The Carrolls will return to Laos in 2011 to do more MiVAC projects. 

How Can You Assist?

1. Join MiVAC - $20 per year at http://mivactrust.org/join.htm  
2. Send MiVAC links on to others – or send this email to people you know, for awareness
3. Make the MiVAC Trust your charity of choice
4. Sponsor a MiVAC project
5. Donate to MiVAC - http://mivactrust.org/donate.htm then Click on "Donate" on the menu.  At option number 4 disregard this number and call me instead.
PCL / MiVAC Women’s Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) Clearance Team 

The first women's UXO and mine clearance team has been successfully trained and have completed their first job.  

Paul Miles trained the team of 10 women from the local town of Houy Kong to Level 1 technician. This training has given the women skills which enables them to gain employment with PCL now and for the future. These women would not normally have had such employment chances or the opportunity to earn well needed wages that they will channel back through their community.
Each member of the team showed great enthusiasm and commitment to the tasks assigned to them. While in PCL employment they are supplied with housing, food, uniforms and transport to and from the site locations. They work 28 days on, 7 days off, this allows them to receive their money in monthly payment to take home to their families. Considering that some of the women cannot read, this has given them a life changing opportunity.

With the first phase of training now over, members of the team will now be assessed for further training up to Level 4 UXO technician.

This programme is an initiative of PCL and is being sponsored by MiVAC as part of an ongoing policy of combining de-mining priorities with socio-economic goals such as employment creation, income generation, gender equality, skills transfer and capacity building.

PCL and MiVAC are proud of this initiative and of the women’s team and the team’s progress so far. Their ability to put back into their own communities is not only satisfying but is also something we pride ourselves on and will continue to expand in the future.

New Projects have been Planned in Lao PDR

In the village of Ban Xai (close to the Plain of Jars) the Lao people exist well below the poverty line. MiVAC (with PCL) have cleared one mine field and are working on another. These minefields are remnants of the 1964-75 Secret War. People and animals have been recently killed in these minefields.

This village is next to the minefields and MiVAC, through a reconnaissance done by Ben Boyle, has determined a number of requirements for these villagers. The projects include

1. Water supply
2. Sanitation education
3. Bio-digesters (which provides the ability to create methane gas for cooking and lighting from animal faeces) Wood fires are currently used 
4. Health Clinic and health education
5. Agricultural home vegetable plots
6. Believe me – the list goes on. 
So Sandy, I hope you enjoyed this information – a bit different to all the “mind” stuff eh?
Happy New Year and have a successful 2011
Sandy MacGregor

Ph: +61-2-9457 7133
Toll Free: 1300 731 900



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