Thursday, December 29, 2011

My New Years Wish -

Dear Mr. President,

I voted for you in 2008 and I will most probably vote for you in 2012. 

I don’t live in the United States any more.  In 2009 my wife and I moved to Cambodia.  I work with a group of ex-child soldiers, widows, villagers and university graduates who are working in small villages around the country to clear landmines.  With nearly 5,000,000 left I can spend the rest of my life here.  My wife teaches English in a small school to kids who are landmine victims, were born without limbs, were abandoned, contracted polio, are orphans and come from families too poor to care for them. 

My social security check pays the mortgage on my home in the US.  I closed my business a few years ago when my friend asked for my help.  I never went back and haven’t regretted it for a moment.

I wore my country’s uniform, albeit for a short time, and I proudly fly the flag of my country from my home in Cambodia.  I am no apologist for the horrible and continuing damage America did over here, but I do make sure that people understand that my country is the largest contributor to humanitarian de-mining in the world, has not used landmines in over 20 years, has ceased their manufacture, outlawed their exportation, and began destroying our stockpiles.

Even though we have refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty, to which 157 nations have affixed their signatures.  We are, again, in the company of countries who do not share our stated values.  Countries like China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, to name but a few.  Not a pleasant group of neighbors.

Many of the people I speak to about landmines, Americans and others,  tell me it is not their problem.  But it is our problem.  John Donne said “No man is an island.....any man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind.  Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

You inspired us when you told us  “I am my brothers keeper.”  Don’t forget that.  We haven’t.  
  •     My brother is a 42 year Cambodian man who cleared 50,000 landmines by hand. 
  • ·       My brother is a 20 year old Cambodian man who lost both his arms when he picked up a cluster bomb from his uncle’s field. 
  • ·       My sister is a 24 year old woman who is building programs to empower Cambodian women – rather than pursuing a graduate degree. 
  • ·       My brother is a 55 year old Englishman who has been clearing landmines around the world for nearly 30 years.
  • ·       Our brothers and sisters are dying every day around the world because there is not enough money to clear the aftermath of wars they never knew.  Wars we waged in their name, on their soil.
I believe in the dream that all men, and women, are created equal and we all have the right to a life without the fear of war.  While my country has not always left the world a better place, we mostly recognize our responsibility. 

The work my friends do here is numbing.  It is tedious, strenuous, and far more rewarding than anything I have ever done before. It is also partly funded by my government, my fellow Americans, and I thank them from the depths of my soul.  Every mine we clear, every unexploded shell we destroy is a life changed for the better.

This month, (my Christmas) our de-mining team built a school for 150 kids who had nowhere else to go.   There are now nearly 200 kids waiting for us to finish the building so they can have classes, and a life they never thought available.  This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of people around the world, who came together when they saw a need.  Helping their brothers and sisters.

In 2012, Mr. President, our country, to whom millions still look for leadership and inspiration, can step up and join over 150 other nations who have sworn to never again plant, or manufacture landmines; weapons that kill indiscriminately and for decades.  Please, sign the mine ban treaty.  These horrible weapons kill more innocents than enemies, more friendly soldiers than foe, and they last for generations.

I wish you peace and prosperity in the New Year.  I do not envy your position or responsibility. But I admire your fortitude and dedication.  
And I remain your fellow American.
William Morse
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Playgrounds and Landmines

Let Your Holiday Gift be Her Happy New Year

Dung Tang Village in northern Cambodia has over 150 kids looking for a school. But there was a mine field in the way.

The villagers built their own school last year, but it was made from sticks and grass, and surrounded by landmines. The recent rains just about washed the school away and their playground had been a minefield.

Aki Ra and the Landmine Relief Fund have promised to build them a new village school. It's going to be 30 meters long and about 7 meters wide. It will have a tin roof and desks and benches for all the kids. We are also going to pay the 4 villagers who act as teachers.

This job will cost us $3,000. We don't have it to spare, but we will not tell 150 kids they can't go to school.

This holiday season give them a Happy New Year and a better future.

Help us build Dung Tang Village school.

donate today at
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Real World

I'm going to go off topic on this one. I'm not even sure anyone will ever see this post, but I've gotta put this down.

I'm living in a country that is undergoing severe flooding. Thousands have been put out of their homes, millions will go hungry in the next few months. My friend and his family are living with us today because his village is under water and he was worried about the health of his children.

And what do I hear about in the USA? The NBA lockout.....

A bunch of overpaid children and their bosses who cannot decide how to split up a $4,000,000,000 (that's billion with a B)pie.

The owners need a collective bargaining agreement to protect themselves from their stupidity, and the players are giving back money the owners would never see if it weren't for them.

But then we do hear about the players who will hurt financially by the lockout.

If you can't make do with a few million dollars, for the rest of your life, you should be shipped off to an island.

I have no use for any of them.

WE are the other 99%, and we just don't give a damn.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Other Side of the World - It's alittle different over here...

10/12/2011 8:58 PM PDT

I haven't written anything for a long time. It's been several months since I last posted on what is going on over here.

As many of you know my wife and I live in Cambodia. We moved here from Palm Springs a couple of years ago. My wife teaches English to children living in a relief center, sort of an orphanage. Some of the kids contracted polio, some were born without limbs. Others were abandoned by their parents. And we have others who are true orphans, while a few come from families too poor to care for them. One lost a leg to a landmine. There used to be 18 landmine victims here. Thankfully the number of causlties is dropping. But 1 out of every 290 people in this country is a landmine victim. the kids go to school every day and are tutored at the center. They sleep 3 or 4 to a room and pass down their clothes as they outgrow them. One child told us she used to have nothing, and now she has everything.

I work with, and for, a man who became a soldier at the age of 10 and fought for 12 years in 3 different armies. The common weapon to all was the landmine. Today I help raise money, and work with his de-mining organization. We call ourselves Cambodian Self Help Demining. We are made up of ex-child soldiers, widows, single mothers, single fathers, farmers, small villagers and university graduates; all working to make their country safe for their families, friends and countrymen.

Our Operations Manager was the 2nd woman to graduate from high school and college in her village. In high school she lived in a room with 6 girls, went to school 6 hours a day before working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for $20 a month. She found a scholarship for college. While there she came to work for us. We pay a liveable salary. She was able to bring her 2 siblings to town and give them money so they go to school without working. She worked for us 6 days a week (the norm here), went to school full time, helped pay off her parents debt, and did volunteer work. When she graduated she decided to clear landmines in small villages and help empower women. She just built a library in her home village and is raising $3,000 for a kindergarten.

She is 24 years old.

I was home for a while this past summer and was stunned at the venality and anger running rampant in America today. We can make this world and our country better if we put forth a bit of effort and work together. No one is perfect. No one has all the answers.

We are one people. It is time we remember that and work to solve some problems together.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another One of the Good Guys Gone

Yesterday Harmon Killebrew passed away in Phoenix.

I met Harmon in Vero Beach at Dodgertown in 1988. I was a 40 year old wannabe old timer who was going to Fantasy Baseball Camp to play ball with 14 Hall of Fame players.

My first day at camp we found our uniforms hanging in the locker room and no one could withstand the draw of the field. We suited up and started a pick-up game. When my turn came to bat I couldn’t have gotten a hit if I stood in front of the ball. I heard a chuckle and turned around to find, to my mortification, Harmon Killebrew, Duke Snyder, and Frank Robinson watching me fan the catcher.

I tossed my bat in the air, and red faced, slunk from the plate. The Duke gave me some tips, and I did OK. Harmon was there every day watching me play and always had a good word for me and the other ‘campers’.

He was a true gentleman. One of the greatest hitters who ever played the game, he never came across as anything other than a regular guy. He was as interested in our backgrounds as we were in his stories.

I haven’t played ball since then, but I keep a picture of me and the Hall of Famers on my desk at home. And every time I watch a ball game I think of the joy Harmon and the others brought to a bunch of men who could only dream of doing what they did day in day out.

My deepest sympathies go to Harmon’s family and all the baseball players around the world who will no longer get the chance to share a moment or two with this truly remarkable man.

Babu in the Jungle

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Helping a Friend

Our good friend Sim Sao has a sister in law suffering from elephantiasis. She is going to Battambang Emergency Hospital tomorrow for some surgeries to her hand. Her entire family (10) came with her last month for the evaluation. Emergency offered to perform the surgeries for free, but she needed to have it done very soon.

She came back today. She and Sao will go check her in tomorrow and the surgeries will be performed next week. We will go to Battambang to check on her in a few days.

After her recuperation and therapy she can go home to her village near Kampong Cham.

We are all chipping in to help with the family costs of getting her here the first time (very scary for her) and to help with her recuperation after she returns home.

She's had the problem for a long time, but through the help of some good people here we found a doctor at Emergency who was happy to help.

A good story for a change.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

UPdate From the Jungle

It has been a very very long time since I have updated this blog, and I apologize to those of you who have chastised me for not keeping it current.

We've added a Facebook page for the Museum/Relief Center and for CSHD, and been updating that rather than the blog. But many of you do not do Facebook, so I will attempt to keep this site updated on a more regular basis.

It has been a busy 4 months. We've nearly completed our Tinkle Fund projects.

The first toilet block was finished in April and the second is in construction now.

The school stairs - The Stairs from Angkow Wat were demolished by the kids and replaced with modern wide stairs that everone can use.

We added a roof to the school building. It has helped keep the sun out of the windows and we no longer have leaks from the flat roof.

We are bulding a parking structure for the vehicles we have at the Museum.

We want to start work on the playground that was delayed from earlier this year. We had a group coming to build it with us, but they had to cancel at the last minute and we haven't had the chance to plug that into the schedule.

Our solar system got hit by lightening and we got hit with a $2,000 repair bill we didn't expect, but thanks to Jackie Russell - our Angel from Hong Kong - it's all taken care of. Jackie is moving back to London this month, and we hope to be able to visit her to do a fundraiser in sunny auld England.

We now have 34 children living at the Relief Center. We plan on having 50 by the end of the year - assuming we continue to raise funds as we have in the past year.

The Museum is fast approaching financial sustainability. We currently raise enough money to cover monthly costs. Funds are raised from ticket sales, donations made at the Museum, and sales from our small shop. While tourist numbers are down substaintially since the GFC (global financial crisis) hit in 2008, they appear to be coming back. Since September, our numbers have increased over the same months a year before. That is the first time that has happened since we moved to the new location in 2007.

Our building program has been funded by donations "extra regulum" (outside the norm). We have not had to dip into operational funding for any of our building projects. And that is thanks to you!!

We have positions for 3 volunteers: 2 teach English, one to the beginning students and the other with the advanced class. We also have a staff class for an hour each day. The 3rd volunteer position is as a tour guide in the Museum. That one is very hard to fill as everyone wants to work with the kids.

Thank you all, and I will try and update this a lot more often.

Babu in the Jungle