Susanna Smale – Location Manager

As Location Manager of Anlong Veaeng, one of the three locations in the HALO Cambodia programme, I manage over 250 staff, including deminers, support staff, logistics, fleet, finance, medical and administration.

Anlong Veaeng is a small town which was one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge but current highlights include a couple of restaurants, a small bakery that does a surprisingly good donut and one air conditioned shop.

My days are long and varied, and I am usually in one of our current minefields, conducting QC and managing clearance. My role also involves planning for future minefields, liaising with local communities, ensuring my teams are resourced effectively and managing the large support network which de-mining requires. As with any management role, I deal with a number of common issues such as staff sickness and broken equipment. But managing mine operations also throws up a number of different challenges, such as coordinating teams to provide emergency medical care to civilian mine accidents or responding to a spontaneous fire in the compound fuel store.

The national demining teams work in cycles, working for around 24 days straight followed by around a week off to rest. During this time, Ill travel to Siem Reap (where HALO Cambodias HQ is based) to work a couple more days there before having some time off before the next demining cycle begins.

One of the main challenges in mine action is to ensure that your mine clearance strategy provides the biggest benefits to the largest number of people. You have to ensure large teams are working efficiently, and most importantly, safely. Communication is key although translation difficulties can make it frustrating (and often hilarious).

The reality of mine action is that there is still a lot to do and a lot which could be improved, giving me a to do list that reaches the floor! However, the purpose, cause and impact of the work that we do is evident when you walk a past a minefield that we were clearing last month, which is now full of rice; or when you meet a landmine victims children and know that thanks to clearance around their home those children wont live with the same risk as their parents.