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Embassy Plans Wine Tasting for Mine Clearing

On the evening of May 9, 2008, several Rotaract Clubs in Rotary International District 7620 will be hosting a Wine Tasting & Auction Event for Cambodian demining Efforts at the Royal Embassy of Cambodia in Washington, DC.

“I expect to have 250 people to join the event. I have offered the Embassy as the venue for the event, and I’ll also provide Cambodian food and Cambodian Classical dance,” said Ambassador Sereywath Ek.

The funds donated through the cost of admission, wine tasting and auction will go towards The Halo Trust Foundation to raise much-need funds to remove landmines from three villages in the Northwestern Region of Cambodia along the K-5 Mine Belt.

“Halo Trust is a non-political, non-religious NGO and is the world’s largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization, which specializes in the removal of the debris of war,” said Kurt Chesko of Halo Trust. “It was founded in Afghanistan in 1988 and moved to Cambodia in 1991 and first partnered with Rotary International to remove landmines from Cambodia in 2001 and the State Department in 2005.”

Halo has over 1,200 demining staff working in the province of Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Battambang, Preah Vihear and Pailin. Halo Cambodia is currently funded by the governments of Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, and the USA.

“These are some of the poorest people in the world and literally they’re living in minefields, collecting firewood in minefields. They’re planting the field in minefields, children are walking through minefields to go to school, people are walking through minefields to get access to water, so it is an urgent situation in northwestern Cambodia; this is where most of the country’s accidents are happening, and it’s just crucial that Halo and other organizations get these mines out of the area quickly as possible,” Chesko added.

Approximately 18 Rotary Clubs are now involved in the mine removal effort in northwestern Cambodia.

The US State Department matched $1 for $1 for past efforts. Rotary International has more than 1.2 million members who volunteer their time and their talent to provide humanitarian service, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.

“People were living either right next to landmines or the houses were built on the top of landmines,” said Brendan Adams, Rotaract Executive Director for the District 7620 Rotary Project for Mine Action in Cambodia. We want to do something to make a world of difference and give these people opportunity to live on their lives,”

Over 63,000 mine and UXO casualties have been recorded since 1979. Cambodia has more than 25,000 amputees, the highest ratio per capita of any country. Most of these casualties occurred around the villages of provinces bordering Thailand.