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Rotary Clubs Taste Wine for Mine Awareness

PHOTO SLIDE SHOW, by Stephane Janin, click here.

A crowd of business professionals, students and others in the Washington, DC area gathered last week for an evening of wine, delicacies and Cambodian entertainment—as well as landmine awareness.

The wine tasting event, sponsored by nine Rotary Club branches with partners Halo Trust and the US State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, brought everyone together at the Cambodian Embassy in Washington.

“I hope other people realize the impact that this kind of project will have to help the people in Cambodia,” said Poonam Chhunchha, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, who helped re-start the Rotaract Club at the school, serving as president and vice president. “This is the first time the young professionals and students have ever done an event such as this one, and all the money we raise tonight through silent and live auctions and through ticket sales will go directly to Cambodia.”

Cambodia remains peppered with landmines, despite many years of efforts by deminers such as Halo Trust.

Brendan Adams, the executive director of Rotaract District 7620's project for mine action in Cambodia, said the May 9 event raised more than $13,000. The U.S. State Department is doing a one-to-two matching grant for these funds, which will be donated to Halo Trust for demining efforts in northwestern Cambodia.

Jim Lawrence, an official at the State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, said removing landmines from Cambodia remains an important activity.

“The biggest area of effort is three-fold,” he said. “One, you tackle the problem directly by clearance on the ground, removing landmines, saving lives. At the same time, you know that you can’t clear the whole country overnight, so you try through risk education programs on TV, in print media and puppet shows and cartoons, to educate the population, particularly children, about how to live safely and stay smart in the contaminated areas. And unfortunately, the third part of our program is to treat victims of the accidents who need medical attention and a prosthetic limb and so forth.”

The demining effort was “an extraordinary opportunity to connect the American people with the world at large, outside our borders,” he said, “and get them to think and focus a little more broadly than just their local community.”

Chhunchha said some of the Rotaractors will be going to Cambodia in August and November to see how far the project is coming along.