Mr Van knows the terrible human cost of landmines.
He was a soldier during Cambodia’s conflict, then—in 1990—his life was torn apart when he lost his leg to a landmine.
Van could no longer serve in the army but needed to work to support his wife, Ti Sakhon, and two daughters—Pech Sova and Pech Sovoy. After leaving hospital, he became a farmer in his home village of Chamkar Chek but due to his prosthetic leg, Van struggled to cultivate his land.
In 2012 the family’s situation became even more precarious. They were no longer able to use their current rice field and, although Van secured new land, he could not afford the $1000 needed to clear the ground so that crops could be grown.
By 2013, the family’s future was under threat. Van was only able to secure intermittent work as a contractor, his wife tried to support by running a small shop from their home but with no regular wage they struggled to buy the food and goods they needed to survive.
Then one day HALO arrived in Chamkar Chek village, looking to recruit and train men and women to clear the landmines that littered nearby fields. Van attended the recruitment session and HALO, who seek to provide employment to local people from towns and villages directly affected by landmines, was very pleased to be able to offer him a job.
Van was trained as a deminer, learning to find the landmines that had caused his own devastating injury so that they could be safely removed.
He is happy that his work means he now brings home a regular wage that supports his wife and pays for his daughter’s education. To begin with Ti Sakhon was very afraid for him—scared that the landmines might injure him once again. But now she understands he is well trained, she no longer worries.
Today Van’s work is even more important to him. His wife became unwell six months ago and can no longer run their shop, but thanks to Van’s job he is able to provide for the family.
“All I have to do is keep working and help my family as much as I can and I hope my wife will get better one day.”
Van is not only transforming his own future, by clearing Cambodia’s landmines, he is ensuring other families do not face the same struggles he has had to overcome.