I am not usually the type to glom on to a fundraising marketing campaign of any sort, and I think this comes from a healthy amount of skepticism that the funds are allocated in the most responsible manner.
Recently I happened across this documentary about Article 22, a distribution company that helps Lao artisans sell jewelry made out of recycled bomb metal. I don’t know for sure if 100% of the proceeds go directly to the cause, or if a percentage is taken for operational costs. As far as I can tell, most of the money goes towards clearing unexploded ordinance (UXO) and the rest goes into economic development in Laos. Here are the reasons this campaign is worth your attention:
- “It is about trade, not aid.” The villagers, of their own resourcefulness, have long discovered that the scrap metal from the bombs can be transformed and sold for profit. This gives the people a sense of self-determination and allows them to be part of the global economy, rather than relying on foreign aid.
- It is sustainable. An estimated 270 million bombs were dropped on Laos over a period of 9 years during the Secret War (approximately 2.5 million tons of munition). The U.S. has spent over $3 million in an effort to clear the land of UXO but less than 1% of these bombs have been destroyed in the 40 years since they were dropped. It is unlikely that Laos will be bomb-free within my lifetime or that of my great-grandchildren. Rather than leave the scraps of metal to litter the landscape indefinitely, the locals have been harvesting this valuable resource.
- It is a positive step forward. Lao people are innately resilient and optimistic. Their spirit is embodied through the creation of something beautiful from the ugliness of the Legacy of War. Moreover, Article 22 is a means through which the world can “buy back” the devastation caused by political agendas.