Meet Tran Thi Thao, one of the longest-serving staff members with MAG Vietnam! Thao joined MAG in 2000 as a deminer, just one year after the program began. As a deminer, she helped clear communities across the country of the deadly remnants of war.
Since the end of the war, there have been more than 104,000 casualties involving unexploded bombs and munitions in Vietnam, the majority of which are children. For the last 20 years, MAG teams have worked tirelessly to remove the threat of these potentially lethal items and educate people about the risks of living in their presence.
After working her way through management training with MAG, Thao, 43, now works as a field supervisor.
After 20 years, Thao is used to the early mornings a job with MAG required. Today, she arrives on-site at 7 am to visit Mine Action Team (MAT) 19; MAG’s first team of all-female deminers in Vietnam. At the site, she listens to team leader Le Thi Bich Ngoc briefing the group about their working progress. She reviews the operation site map to make sure it is fully updated and that all of the information is correct.
Thao also checks a strip of land using a large-loop detector to ensure it is free from unexploded bombs. She walks towards a nearby pit marked with red pickets and string and surrounded by sand bags. In this area there is a cluster bomb and a grenade. As the cluster bomb is too dangerous to move, both the items must now be destroyed at the end of the working day.
Thao then spends 30 minutes providing an on-site refresher course about using hand-held detectors – reminding the team about how to use the equipment properly. These safety sessions are delivered once a week. Early in the afternoon, Thao travels to a village in the Trieu Van commune, Trieu Phong district, where she visits another team; MAT 4. During the site visit, a team member comes to inform her that a cluster bomb has been found on the surface of a nearby sand dune, and will be removed and destroyed by the MAG team.
On her way back to the MAG office, Thao sees Tran Van Hung, 57, who is clearing scrubs on his melon plantation. Hung has a hectare of land which has just been completely cleared of dangerous ordnance by MAG. He tells Thao: “My plot of land used to be contaminated with numerous unexploded ordnance, particularly cluster bombs. Before MAG cleared the land, everyone in my family was very scared whenever we worked here. Now we feel relieved and confident to cultivate.”
Thao is happy to hear this. She says: “Working for MAG has been a great opportunity for me to contribute to making my homeland free from unexploded munitions so that my family, my relatives, and communities are safe to live and work. MAG has also created jobs for local people, like for me and for my husband. I am so happy working for MAG”.