It was on my last day in Siem Reap that I stumbled upon a second unexpected “Monument to Survival”, The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center.
This museum is by far not as grandiose, or as splendid as Angkor Wat, but it affected me deeply and it is a reminder of Cambodia’s most recent civil war. The exhibits and artifacts are a plethora of landmines and unexploded ordinance in all shapes and forms. With over 5 million active landmines still buried in the ground, Cambodia, to this day remains one of the most landmine polluted countries in the world.
The museum was founded in 1997 by Aki Ra, a courageous and compassionate Cambodian citizen. From its humble beginnings, the museum has by now grown into a place of refuge and an education center for landmines injured children. Along with providing living quarters and a school, the museum also has a medical clinic that serves as a rehabilitation center, and a training facility for landmine accident prevention and safety.
Being forced to become a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime Aki Ra, who never was allowed to receive any schooling, realized that education is the key to survival and success, and a powerful healing mechanism for the emotionally and physically injured children. While I was in the presence of these mutilated children and despite the ongoing evidence of the horrendous use of landmines in this country, I still felt an uplifting spirit of endurance.
During my brief stay at the museum, I asked one of the teenagers what he hopes to do when he’s…, and I did not finish the sentence, for looking at him, standing there on his one good leg, leaning confidently on crutches; I wondered just how old he actually might be. He smilingly finished my sentence, “… you mean, when I’m grown up?” and he continued, “First I want to take care of myself, then I want to take care of my family, and then I want to take care of my country”.
This photography collection is dedicated to the children and youth that I encountered in the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center. One third of the selling price of each image from this collection will be donated to this recognized NGO so that it will be able to continue de-mining efforts and the education of young landmines survivors.
Please click their website for more information or to donate: The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Facility