Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cambodian Self Help Demining EXISTS!!

Ever log on and look at your emails and your stomach drops? You see an email in front of you that you've been expecting but you're not sure exactly what it's gonna say?

I got one like that this morning. It simply said Accreditation Board Decision on CSHD.

It's what we had been waiting to hear about for almost a year. It said:

...the CMAA Accreditation Board ha(s) decided to provide the CSHD with the provisional Accreditation and from now the CSHD can start your activities in the fields...

Cambodian Self Help Demining exists.

As many of you know, Aki Ra had been deimining for over 15 years when he was requird to stop his activities and become certified. He stopped his demining activities a year ago. We've been working working with him to get his new NGO, CSHD registered (we got that on 28 May), and certified.

What does that mean, he got 'provisional' certification?

It means that we can start raising money, since we actually have a deminng company to fund.

It means we can start training deminers, since we actually have a demining company that can employ them.

And it means that we can start our demining program.

Aki Ra has letters from village chiefs all over the country asking him to clear their fields and villages. He has more than enough work to keep him busy for a long long time, I am sorry to say.

We'll spend the next few weeks buying the equipment we need, and training our deminers in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that we've developed over the last few months.

We will need to be inspected by the CMAA after we get into the field to insure that we are indeed following our SOPs and that we have all the equipment we need to do the job the right way.

We'll do it the right way. We promise.

I can't begin to explain how momentous this is. For years Aki Ra did his work 'under the table'. Then 2 years ago CMAA started requiring all deminers to be certified. Aki Ra wasn't and it didn't look like it would happen at all. Up stepped a dedicated group of supporters from all over the world, Bomber and Roy and the VVMCT from Austrailia, the CLMMRF from Canada, Project Enlighten from the USA, Phil from the UK, and the Landmine Relief Fund from the US.

I promised Aki Ra a year ago I would work to get him registered and certified. With the help of all the other groups, dozen, hundreds of supporters around the world, I came here in September to see how the process worked. After Aki Ra took his last bomb disposal class in the UK, I came back in 2008. Except for the months of February and May, I've been here all year. And we've been working and waiting to see this process through.

And there's been a lot of waiting. A lot.

We still have much more to do. No one will be satisfied until CSHD gets their 'final' certification. That will come only after the team is field tested by CMAA. That's what all the training is for now. To make sure we are ready for CMAA's 'cert-test.'

A little aside, if I may. I was riding down the main street of Siem Reap with Sao the other day and we saw an ambulance rush into the hospital just up the street. Sao heard later it was a 'bomb hunter' who'd lost both arms and a leg when he was trying to pull a UXO out of the ground so he could sell the metal for scrap. He did it wrong and it cost him not just his arms and a leg, but his life. He died the next day.

This is why we do what we do. This is why Aki Ra can't wait to get back to the field.

This is why we need your support!

I WILL be posting again soon.


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