Jimmy Carter said, “Peace is much more than just the absence of war.”
Nowhere is this saying more evident than in Vietnam. When the United States government pulled out of Vietnam in 1975 the war was considered over. Yet, for millions of Vietnamese, the war continues even today.
In an area, roughly the size of King County Washington, 2,000 square miles, Quang Tri Province, an agricultural area, was the target of many of the war bombs. More bombs were dropped in Quang Tri than the combined number of bombs dropped by all allied forces during World War II.
When the United States left Vietnam, these unexploded ordnances (UXO) and landmines remained. It is estimated there are more than six tons of UXO for every citizen of Quang Tri Province.
Quang Tri Province is home to many indigenous people who don’t speak Vietnamese and so cannot understand warnings about UXO and landmines. Quang Tri has one of the highest rates of injury and deaths from UXO and land mines in all of Vietnam.
When an injury occurs, the effects on the family are multiple. There is the sadness of loss of life or limbs. Hospitalization costs for the injured and the loss of income when an injured person can no longer work are often more than a family can bear.
In November 2007, 19 Friendship Force International members traveled to Vietnam. One of the purposes was to gain a better understanding of the war. We met with members of PeaceTrees Vietnam, the state of Washington-based organization dedicated to land mine education and removal.
Over the last 12 years, PeaceTrees Vietnam has assisted more than 640 UXO victims/families. It has:
• Provided land mine awareness education for more than 14,000 children;
• Built 100 family homes, nine libraries and four kindergartens;
• Planted more than 40,000 trees;
• Cleared more than 399 acres of land;
• And removed 26,452 pieces of ordnance.
Several Friendship Force members are teaming up with PeaceTrees Vietnam to build and maintain a library in Quang Tri.
As well as housing books, this library will be a meeting center and education center to teach children about UXO and land mines. The goal is to complete the library in the fall of 2009. At which time we will return to Vietnam to dedicate the building, the Friendship Force Library.
A budget has been set of $17,250 to clear the land and build the library. In addition, we will need a yearly sum of $600 to maintain it. Books will also need to be purchased at a cost of around $300.
By American standards, this sum is small, but the results will have a huge impact for the people of Quang Tri Province and for creating friendships in Vietnam. The Friendship Force Motto of “A World of Friends is a World of Peace” will be put to action in this Friendship Force Library project.
We hope you will consider helping us “Reverse the Legacy of War” by donating to the PeaceTrees Vietnam-Friendship Force Library. Checks or credit cards are accepted and payment can be mailed to PeaceTrees Vietnam PO Box 10697, Bainbridge Island WA 98110. You may also go to www.peacetreesvietnam.org and click on donations. We deeply appreciate any amount of money you can give.
We are also looking for any children’s books in good condition. Call Geoff Hornsby at 331-1388 for pickup, or for a selection of drop-off points. Thank you.
Geoff Hornsby is a Freeland resident and a member of the Friendship Force of Whidbey Island.