Our program manager, Jasmine Jarman, has recently returned from 4 weeks of travel in South East Asia.She had the opportunity to meet up with our partners at the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre in Siem Reap Cambodia. As an American travelling through South East Asia in wake of the Charlottesville terrorist attack and growing tensions between North Korea and the Trump administration, she felt the impact that peace and understanding made during the Cambodian genocide and civil war.
Read her reflections below:
“When I first began planning my trip to South East Asia, I knew Angkor Wat was on the top of my list. I was aware that Cambodia was a poor country and still recovering from the pain of the war. I almost felt bad as my travel companions came to realize how different this part of our trip would be compared to Bangkok. When we got to our hotel we unpacked and settled into the open landscape. The land crossing was so demanding that we fell asleep at about 8pm. Not jet lag, just pure exhaustion.
Morning came around and I was excited to start seeing something other than Bangkok traffic.
Yut of Ayana Journeys picked us up from our hotel in a tuk tuk and drove us to the Meta Karuna. When we first arrived, we were greeted by the dogs that live on the property followed by Sister Denise, an Australian woman who has been helping at the Meta Karuna for thirty years. The grounds are set up so one can view Cambodia through the eyes of the poor. The first symbol we looked at was the labyrinth, a physical manifestation of the process of centering one’s self. The importance of having a perspective on the world from a peaceful point of view. As we walked down the path to the next symbol I looked up- it is against human nature to look up naturally but it’s something I always do when I enter a room. The things that humans choose to put above their heads are incredibly meaningful. When I looked up there was a replica of an American plane dropping down land mines.
While the grounds were incredibly peaceful I couldn’t help but imagine the fire from war. I thought about the peaceful countryside I saw as I entered Cambodia and heard cries. At the center of this I felt guilt, the US government has caused so much pain and loss yet offers nothing in return. Sister Denise saw me looking up at the small white bombs above my head dance in the morning breeze. She called over a man to explain the various bombs to us, it was Nobel Prize winner Tun Channareth. I listened as he showed us the different bombs that have plagued Cambodia and where they came from.
The US plane loomed heavier over my head as he spoke.
As we continued the tour Sister Denise showed us a collection of pots. Different sizes, different shapes, different colors-she asked we take a moment and choose which pot we feel represented us. I chose a small orange pot because I felt it best represented how I felt in the moment. I felt small and too bright for the rest of the setting. We moved onto the small chapel where they hold multi denominational ceremonies and had a moment to think. Sister Denise left us to reflect and look around the property.
I walked along the path and thought about how scared I had been to travel so far from home. I had put so much energy into trying to make myself feel secure in a country that was not secure for a very long time. The civil war in Cambodia, the genocide, and the scattering of bombs across the country wreaked havoc on the people of Cambodia but places like the Meta Karuna were there to help them feel secure.
Peace exists alongside chaos in the hearts and actions of people willing and able to help. Peace comes in the form of resistance. Organizations like Peace Works Travel and the Meta Karuna educate, inspire, and motivate people to resist apathy and act as engaged citizens. Peace is not always standing idly by, calling for love with words. Peace is organizing allies, speaking out against injustice, pressuring leaders, and staying engaged.
Some highlights from La Jolla Country Day School’s trip to Vietnam this summer
Visiting the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
The students relax on the boat ride to their homestay in Mekong
Students meeting up with their pen pals at Can Tho University
On the last night our travelers let loose with some karaoke!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why the new regulations on Cuba?
President Trump believes that economic isolation of state-funded businesses in Cuba will put pressure on the Cuban government to democratize the island. The regulations prohibit transactions with state-run businesses.
How are these regulations different from the Obama administration’s laws?
The proposed regulations restrict individual people-to-people travel from the United States to Cuba. Individual people-to-people travel “ i) does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program; and (ii) does not take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued.” (Source: Office of Foreign Assets Control)
Will this affect my tour to Cuba?
No, the new regulations only limit individual people-to-people travel. Our tours are classified as group people-to-people travel, therefore are not restricted by the new regulations.
I have already booked a trip to Cuba, can I still go?
Yes. Essentially the new regulations have added another layer of bureaucracy to the travel process from the United States to Cuba.
If you have booked with Peace Works Travel your travel is considered to be group people-to people travel therefore you are not affected by these proposed regulations.
If you have not booked with Peace Works Travel but have already completed at least one travel related transaction (such as booking a flight) as of June 16, 2017 your travel will be authorized even if it is scheduled after the new regulations take effect.
When will the new regulations take effect?
OFAC expects to issue the new regulations in the coming months and will not take effect until at least 30 days after the new regulations are published by OFAC.
Is this a travel ban?
No. There have been no changes to the regulations that permit flights or cruises from the United States to Cuba.
How will the ban affect travelers?
This will only affect individual people to people travel which is classified as educational travel that: (i) does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program; and (ii) does not take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued. (source: Office of Foreign Assets Control)
Our founder and CEO, Alethea Tyler Paradis, discusses how 9/11 inspired her to start Peace Works Travel, how to engage with students, and much more in this episode of “Do School Better” with Doris Korda.
Sara W. was welcomed to K-LITE studios as their K-LITE Weather Kid and got to share a little about her experience traveling through Vietnam with fellow Dos Pueblos HS students and the eye-opening work they did there. We’re so proud of our student travelers!
Harvard Westlake Go! Guatemala – August 2016
A few photos from our group’s trip so far:
The Streets of Antigua
Impact Hub, where our students connect with local kids and start ups learning entrepreneurship
Lunch at the farmer’s house (not pictured 5 feet behind, a horse who lives indoors!)
The Snickers bars are cleverly marketed here with slang names for human personalities: “crying whiny child” (chipe), “tough macho guy” (Caquero), and a goofy kind of person (baboso)
De La Gente coffee activities
Panajachel & Posada de Santiago, Lake Atitlan
Recording an appeal to raise money for a local preschool.
Farewell dinner at Posada de Santiago with Starfish Impact girls.
We are in Antigua in an art gallery listening to Guatemalan indigenous genocide survivors tell their story. Everyone is super respectful, captivated, and interested to hear the stories of how the war came to the countryside, and how some people – wrongly labeled as communists taking orders from the Kremlin – survived the death squads trained by the Reagan administration during the Cold War.
“Take students to Vietnam? Isn’t that a war zone?”
It was 9/11 that radicalized my teaching. Hearing my students embrace war in Afghanistan and Iraq as an answer to our national grief inspired my entrepreneurial spirit. How can we use our grief from violence to inspire peace? How can we teach kids to generate shared wealth as a means of deterring terrorism and increasing global stability? I recognized only one cure in the long-investment-cycle of education: radical empathy through experiential learning.
“What if we built a socially-conscious education abroad program in countries healing from conflict?” We launched Peace Works in 2005, a perfect time marking the 30-year anniversary of the “Fall” (or reunification) of Saigon. With American troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, I asked my students to reflect on the lessons of the Vietnam War. What have we learned from our military adventures in Southeast Asia? How can we honor our nations’ fallen, support our soldiers and — more broadly– invite students to innovate fresh systems of global peace and security without military force?
Comparisons between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan abound: in each, the U.S. invaded autonomous nations upon questionable pretexts (“weapons of mass destruction”/Gulf of Tonkin incident). In both, we engaged in guerrilla wars for the “hearts and minds” of foreign people who viewed us not as liberators, but as invaders. As with Vietnam, the impossibility of distinguishing civilian from enemy has caused severe emotional distress to U.S. soldiers in combat, dubious metrics of “body counts,” immeasurable agony in millions of casualties. Weapons and theaters of war have changed since Vietnam; the suffering of our troops, the aggressive pursuit of unknown enemies with questionable tactics of violence have not.
After 9/11, too many of my students attempted to make sense of invading Afghanistan by repeating simplistic justifications seemingly recycled from the Vietnam era: “I’d rather fight them there than here.” “Freedom isn’t free.” “We don’t negotiate with terrorists”
After our first trip to Vietnam – meeting with survivors, exploring iconic sites, innovating ideas to benefit children living with the legacy of chemical warfare, and experiencing the beautiful culture – my students changed for the better. Complex understanding replaced simplistic slogans. Creative problem-solving, entrepreneurial solutions, and citizen engagement replaced nationalistic war jingoism. Now in 2016, we’ve brought nearly 1,000 kids abroad.
How do we transcend the repetition of history’s mistakes? It is a practice that begins with radical
empathy mapping: for soldiers, policy-makers, investors, civilians, and the oppressed. It is a process which invites design-thinking. We endeavor to understand where our common humanity unites us. The challenges and goals we share: security, prosperity, justice.
It’s cliché, but true: human civilization is doomed to repeat history’s mistakes should we fail to engage the next generation of creative thinkers, now. Students can learn lessons of war
without fighting one themselves. The goal is to connect: introduce students to survivor narratives and veteran’s stories. Use the Business Model Canvas and Lean Launch Pad methodology to understand human problems that cause war and brainstorm solutions which restore peace. Invite the world into your school, and take your classroom into the world. Merge your classroom curriculum to dynamic travel itineraries with innovative projects fostering mutual prosperity.
Rather than avoiding the tough topic of war, I applaud teachers who embrace the teachable landscape of painful anniversaries: Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Kristallnacht, Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Pearl Harbor Day, and 9/11. We must use these moments to harness our students’ natural compassion, we must inspire their creative engagement to innovate solutions, generate entrepreneurial ideas for long-term stability in a global economy. Because, countries united by people in mutually-prosperous economies don’t bomb one another.
You’re invited to download a free lesson plan from our Vietnam War – Unit V curriculum library. Use these resources to engage your creative thinkers and build a foundation of understanding and empathy.
Veterans tell us “war is hell.” Those who mourn the loss of a soldier this Memorial Day get it. However, the percentage of the U.S. population serving in the military is less than one-half of 1% – the lowest levels since World War II. To those of us in the civilian population Memorial Day is little more than a 3-day weekend, department store sales, and barbecues. Our country has grown accustomed to perpetual war – fought by others, elsewhere – with media snapshots of crude terrorist attacks serving to silence the basic inquiry of alternatives to militarism. The sensible notion is to support our soldiers by working to end war, right? Not a sexy election year topic.
As a history teacher, I witness first-hand how student interest and performance increase with experiential learning. Holidays, anniversaries, watershed iconic moments in history are excellent, teachable moments to reflect on the human experience of violence—and the possibilities for peace.
How do we teach kids about war and citizenship without violence? For Memorial Day, let’s do this: use the Veterans’ voices and survivors’ testimonies, the iconic images and powerful stories to invite classroom dialogue which resonates in the community. Make it personal by finding a survivor who has a story to share. Model the interview process with empathy. Ask students to find their own survivor to interview: a veteran, a refugee, an emotional witness to war. Ask students to capture that person’s experience in art, written, or digitized form. Host a sharing of students’ interviews. Broaden the impact and invite community participation in creative dialogue.
You’re invited to download a free lesson plan on “Iconic Imagery of the Vietnam War” from our curriculum resource library as a tool to ignite analysis. Encourage students to weigh the merits and detriments of broadcasting war.
Memorial Day could be an extra day off. It could be a vintage movie celebrating American patriotism through the trials of a mythical soldier. Or, it could be a day of radical empathy with the true sorrows of war. Inspire your classroom to be the spark that ignites creative activism for peace!
BY SIMON HENDERSON | MARCH 17, 2014
The Belgian demining NGO APOPO, which is pioneering the use of mine-detecting rats in the former battlefields of Cambodia, has received funding from the German government to expand its mine-clearance work in the country.
In November, the government gave the green light for APOPO to begin testing highly skilled African Giant Pouched Rats—nicknamed Hero Rats—on Cambodian soil.
Hero Rats have achieved noted success over the past four years in sniffing out thousands of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Mozambique and Angola.
Germany’s funding will help the NGO deploy 180 specialists in Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces to work alongside the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), the organization said in a statement.
“Funding from the German Federal Government will go far to help mine impacted communities and help rid the country of these deadly weapons. We look forward to working with our partner CMAC for this effort,” said Kim Warren, country director for APOPO.
Over the past decade, Germany has provided over $15 million to Cambodia to support mine clearance operations.
Its decision to back the innovative Belgian NGO and its Hero Rats project reflects its ongoing commitment to helping Cambodia achieve the targets set by the 2010 to 2019 National Mine Action Strategy, the statement added.
The value of the grant was not disclosed, but last year Germany pledged $391,467 to APOPO’s demining activities in Thailand along its border with Cambodia, while last month it committed $359,940 to the NGO’s demining efforts in Vietnam’s central province of Thua Thien-Hue.
Mines and UXO have killed more than 19,000 Cambodians and injured about 45,000 since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, and though the country is lauded internationally for its demining efforts, much work remains to be done.
Landmines and unexploded remnants of war killed 22 people and injured 111 more last year, according to figures from CMAC.
Ten Hero Rats are in the final phase of training at the organization’s research center in Tanzania before being sent to Cambodia to begin acclimatization and performance tests, according to APOPO.
A team of Cambodian recruits will soon be trained to lead the rats on their first missions outside of Africa.
© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide.
Joy Watson travelled with Network for Africa founder Rebecca Tinsley and others to Rwanda in March. Today, on the 21st anniversary of the start of the genocide, we share her impressions of Rwanda.
“The land of a thousand hills and a million smiles” declares the large billboard that greets new arrivals at Kigali airport in the beautiful country of Rwanda. This marked my second visit to Africa, my first to Rwanda, but was this bold declaration true? I was intrigued to discover what this small, land-locked nation was truly like, not least because it is the same size as my native Wales, which also boasts a large number of hills. But that’s where the similarities seem to end. Wales is surrounded on three sides by the sea, has a population a third of the size of Rwanda and despite political and social injustices laced through its history, did not experience a million deaths in three months, just two decades ago.
As our trip unfolded, it became clear it was going to be one of striking contrasts. We went from visiting amazing life-giving projects funded by Network for Africa, where women and children were given dignity, knowledge, skills for life and productivity, to viewing memorial sites where the clothes of those murdered were draped over pews that had not been used for worship for almost 21 years. The pervasive stench of trauma, desolation and death still hung rank in the air.
As a counsellor, I am used to confronting the effects of loss, pain, abuse and trauma, but what I was seeing and sensing was on a whole different level to that which I had ever seen and sensed before. Here was a country that appeared to have had its very heart ripped out in the seemingly senseless decimation of so many innocent lives. Is it ever possible to smile again after something like that? Apparently so. Admittedly the smiles were slow, reticent, wary, but nonetheless genuine. These remarkable people reached out and responded to kindness, empathy and warmth. They opened up to us in ways hard to comprehend given their experiences. They shared their stories and their lives and the little they have so generously, whilst exhibiting such extraordinary resilience and tenacity.
There’s another tag line bandied around in this enigmatic country: “Rwanda, the heart of Africa.” Whilst I suspect this is a reference to its geographical location, I found myself wondering ‘what if’. What if this stunning, lush, ‘full of potential’ nation were to become the ‘heart’ of Africa? A place of life and energy where the life-blood is pumped carefully, lovingly, equitably to every part; where compassion, empathy and kindness pulse and spill out into all communities and surrounding countries. A place of passion, creativity, colour and restoration, where differences are celebrated and all life is valuable. Now that would be something to smile about.
Copyright © 2015 Network for Africa, All rights reserved.
Bill Morse, Director Cambodian Landmine Museum, Siem Reap
Briggs Boss, Sophomore, Thacher School
Stacy Serrette, Teacher and Dean of Student Life, Emma Willard School
Paul Rusesabagina, Real-life Hotel Rwanda hero who saved over 1200 people during the Rwandan genocide.
Shirley Hahn, Beverly Hills, California
The Santa Barbara Independent
Alex Greer, Junior, Laguna Blanca School
Kelly Bennett, history teacher, Santa Barbara Middle School
Alexandra Kall, Francis Parker School
Spencer Barr, English Teacher, Santa Barbara High School, California
Stacy Serrette, Director of Student Life, Emma Willard School
Eric Taylor, Francis Parker School, San Diego, California