by Síle Sammon
My name is Síle Sammon and I have been working with MAG since September 2011 as a Media and Communications Intern. After starting with MAG Cambodia I am now based in Vientiane with MAG Laos. (In the picture below, that’s me on the left!).
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first started with the organisation. All I knew was that MAG cleared mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance)- I didn’t realise the other aspects that MAG also carry out such as community liaison and working with development partners.
With MAG Cambodia my main task was working on MAG’s visibility materials for 11MSP (Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention) which was being held in Phnom Penh as well as helping MAG’s photographer Sean Sutton interview beneficiaries while he took pictures of the most recent work being carried out by MAG in Cambodia and hosting media visits to MAG’s operations.
The week spent with Sean visiting Chisang, a village in Battambang that MAG has been involved in since 1997 and various other sites was amazing and my first chance to witness mine clearance operations firsthand. I spent time with various types of clearance teams (deminers, dogs and machines), as well as amputees and beneficiaries of MAG’s work seeing firsthand the work that MAG is carrying out and how this in turn impacts on the people living in the area. (see earlier entry “Voices from Chisang”)
In the build up to the 11MSP I visited Chisang regularly and met with various members of the community. One of the people that I remember fondly was a man in his 60s who had lost his leg after stepping on a landmine near his village. This has not slowed him down as he informed me he has been married five times already. Every time I went back I could see the happier and more optimistic people became as more of the minefield was being cleared. Coming from a country that isn’t plagued by landmines or UXO I realise how much I have taken for granted being able to live in a safe and secure area where I am not constantly fearful of either myself or a loved one being hurt by an explosive. For people in Cambodia and many other parts of the world this is a fear that is being lived through every day on an ongoing basis.
From Chisang to the 11MSP in Phnom Penh was going from one end of the spectrum to the other. This event was attended by more than 1,000 individuals representing governments, national and international demining organisations, NGOs and other members of the humanitarian mine action community. Nick Roseveare, who had just become CEO of MAG, was in attendance along with other senior MAG management. Over the course of the week various events were held by different organisations with MAG hosting a photo exhibition at their new office on the Thursday evening which was a huge success.
As well as the 11 MSP I was able to organise other events for MAG such as a month long exhibition in the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh for Mine Action Week. One particularly enjoyable task was partnering with a local training bakery to make Mine Action cupcakes which proved very popular and all sold out. I was sad when my time with MAG Cambodia came to an end as I really enjoyed the program there.