La Jolla Country Day School: Vietnam Discovery 2017

Published June 27, 2017

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! 


Office of Foreign Asset Control: Cuba Regulations


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)

*Updated 6/20/2017

Althea Tyner Paradis Sits Down with Wildfire Education to Discuss Service Learning Through Global Problem Solving

Published June 21, 2017

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.

Do School Better Episode 51 – Service Learning through Global Problem Solving

Dos Pueblos HS Student Shares Her Vietnam Experience on 101.7 K-LITE

Published September 10, 2016

Klite_0016_Logo 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

Published August 5, 2016

Harvard Westlake Go! Guatemala – August 2016

A few photos from our group’s trip so far:




The Streets of Antigua


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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!)

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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)

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De La Gente coffee activities



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Panajachel & Posada de Santiago, Lake Atitlan





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Day 6


Starfish Impact


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Day 7

Starfish Impact

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Recording an appeal to raise money for a local preschool.

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Farewell dinner at Posada de Santiago with Starfish Impact girls.

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Day 8



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.







































War & Citizenship: Experiential Learning Without Violence

Published June 1, 2016

“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?

Peace-Village-Hanoi-Group-PictureComparisons 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”

blogger-image--1671525310After 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 our_trip_journalismyour 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.

Memorial Day: an Opportunity to Teach Peace

Published May 25, 2016

Iwo Jima Memorial(Marine Corps War Memorial) Washington DC USA at sunrise

Iwo Jima Memorial(Marine Corps War Memorial) Washington DC USA at sunrise

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!

Funding Boost for Cambodia’s Hero Mine-Detecting Rats NGO

Published April 8, 2015

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.

A Reason to Smile


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.

Cleaning a land riddled with bombs

Published March 30, 2015

International New York Times
Sat, 28 Mar 2015

One woman has led a single-minded effort to clean up the fallout of a nine-year American air campaign that made Laos one of the most heavily bombed places on earth.

Thao Kae and his friends were foraging for their dinner, collecting the bamboo shoots that grow in the jungle a halfhour’s walk from their remote hamlet along the Mekong River. As they dug and sifted the soil, one of the boys found a small metal sphere and brought it back to a house in the village.

More than 8,000 people have been killed by leftover American ordnance in Laos. Channapha Khamvongsa, right, is trying to rid her native land of the millions of bombs still buried.


‘‘They thought it was a pétanque ball,’’ said Khamsing Wilaikaew, a 59-year-old farmer, referring to the bowling game also known as bocce. ‘‘They were throwing it against the ground.’’

Four decades after it was dropped from a warplane, the metal ball, an American-made cluster bomb, did what it was designed to do. Thao Kae, 8 years old, was killed on the spot. Mr. Khamsing’s wife and a 9-year-old boy died of their injuries several days later.

The accident in Houaykhay happened a year and a half ago, but two boys are still limping from untreated and painful injuries to their feet, and the villagers are still traumatized.

They recounted the story on a recent morning to a visitor, Channapha Khamvongsa, an irrepressibly cheery Lao-American woman who for the past decade has led a single-minded effort to rid her native land of millions of bombs still buried here, the legacy of a nineyear American air campaign that made Laos one of the most heavily bombed places on earth.

‘‘There are many, many problems in this world that might not be able to be solved in a lifetime,’’ she said. ‘‘But this is one that can be fixed. Given that it was ignored for so long, we need to redouble our efforts and finish the job.’’

From 1964 to 1973, American warplanes conducted 580,000 bombing missions over Laos, one of the most intensive air campaigns in the history of warfare. The campaign is often called the Secret War because the United States did not publicly acknowledge waging it.

The targets were North Vietnamese troops — especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a large part of which passed through Laos — as well as North Vietnam’s Laotian Communist allies.
Since the war’s end, more than 8,000 people have been killed and about 12,000 wounded in Laos by cluster bombs and other live, leftover ordnance.

Thanks largely to Ms. Channapha’s lobbying, annual United States spending on the removal of unexploded bombs in Laos increased to $12 million this year from $2.5 million a decade ago.

‘‘The funding increase is almost singlehandedly due to the dogged efforts of Channapha,’’ said Murray Hiebert, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ‘‘She operates from a tiny shoe-box operation in Washington with almost no budget. Her only tools are her charm, conviction and persistence.’’

A vast amount of unexploded ordnance remains in Laos, a mountainous and landlocked former French colony. Clearance teams working across the country pull hundreds of unexploded munitions and bomb fragments from rice paddies and jungle every week. Last year alone, 56,400 munitions were found and destroyed in Laos.

‘‘This country, every time I’ve been here, blows my mind,’’ said Tim Lardner, a former British Army bomb disposal officer who has worked on clearing unexploded ordnance from Laos and other countries for 25 years. ‘‘The scale of the contamination is horrendous.’’

Having worked in many war-torn countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola and Mozambique, he added, ‘‘In terms of the amount still in the ground, Laos is worse than any other country I’ve seen.’’
Kingphet Phimmavong, the coordinator of the Laotian government’s bomb clearance efforts in Xieng Khouang Province, one of the most heavily bombed areas, said he had found bombs in riverbeds and in termite mounds and tangled in the roots of a tree. ‘‘They are everywhere,’’ he said. Tragic stories of bombs unexpectedly detonating are distressingly common. Mr. Kingphet’s mother and brother were killed in 1976 when they were tilling a rice paddy and struck a bomb with a hoe.

These days bombs are most often detonated by children who play with them, scavengers seeking scrap metal to sell and villagers who unwittingly build cooking fires near where they are buried.

Three years ago, Nengyong Yang, a farmer in a remote village in Xieng Khouang, was chopping down a tree when a bomblet embedded in the tree trunk exploded and blinded him.

Unable to farm, he later hanged himself, said Maw Khang, 32, his widow, who was left to raise their four children.

‘‘I have to work in the fields, and there is no one to take care of the children,’’ she said.

Designed to cause maximum casualties to troops, the casing of a cluster bomb splits in midair and sprays hundreds of bomblets onto the ground. In Laos, many of these bomblets did not explode for a variety of reasons, including muddy soil that cushioned the impact. Experts estimate that around 30 percent of the American cluster bombs dropped in Laos remain unexploded.

Despite the scale of the bombing campaign, Ms. Channapha, 42, said she only became aware of it as an adult. It was not discussed by her family, who fled Laos in 1979 when she was 6, or in the Laotian community where she grew up in Virginia.

‘‘I considered myself somewhat wellread and conscious of right and wrong,’’ she said. ‘‘Yet this major piece of Lao-American history was unknown to me.’’

Ms. Channapha said she was spurred into action when she came across a collection of drawings of the bombings made by refugees and collected by Fred Branfman, an antiwar activist who helped expose the Secret War.

In 2004, when Ms. Channapha founded an organization to raise awareness about unexploded ordnance, Legacies of War, she used the drawings in a traveling exhibition.

Her campaign was initially met with resistance, especially from within the Laotian diaspora in the United States.

Lao-Americans, many of them aristocrats and high-ranking soldiers, were not inclined to help Communist-run Laos; many also wanted to leave the past behind.

‘‘The elders in the community were not supportive,’’ Ms. Channapha said. ‘‘They had lost their land, their country, their homes and their status.’’

So she rebranded her campaign. Instead of describing it as ‘‘a project on the secret U.S. bombing in Laos,’’ she called its mission ‘‘history, healing, hope.’’

She brought over a young amputee from Laos who was born after the war and who delivered a message of humanitarian need free from politics.

She targeted members of Congress with large Laotian populations in their districts. In 2010, she testified before Congress, urging more funding for bomb clearance and assistance for victims.

And the attitudes of Lao-Americans have changed in recent years as more have returned to Laos, Ms. Channapha said. ‘‘As their own personal relationship with the country was evolving and changing, so did their opinion about what we were doing,’’ she said. ‘‘They were starting to understand that it wasn’t about taking sides.’’

Mr. Kingphet, the ordnance clearance manager, praises Ms. Channapha’s efforts, but he said the United States should do more. Many Americans are still unaware of the war in Laos, he said.

‘‘Some Americans come here and they are shocked at how many bombs were dropped,’’ he said.
It will be decades before all the unexploded bombs are removed. In the meantime, officials are traveling to remote corners of the impoverished country and urging caution.

Houmphanh Chanthavong, a government official who was among the group visiting Houaykhay village, told residents of the painstaking process to remove ordnance from the ground, the metal detectors and the clearance experts who delicately dig for them.

‘‘We keep on digging, and we keep on finding more,’’ he said.