Her simple stall, a ruby red material covering the ground, contrasted with her mustard coloured top, black embroidered trousers, and bare feet. She was sitting cross-legged on the ground, holding her toddler son. His sister, about 8, sat slightly apart on her own.
And so began our education.
The tragic result: more than 34,000 people have been killed or injured by cluster munitions since the bombing ceased in 1973; there are still 300 new casualties in Laos each year. The majority of victims are children.
Two years after the bombing stopped, villagers began to cast spoons from war scrap metal scattered around their forests and fields.
Enter American New York designer, Elizabeth Suda, who visited Laos in 2008, saw the metal jewellery and objects, asked some questions, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Article 22 also launched The PeaceBombs Project, one of the most important and moving enterprises to support the Laotian artisan. Using bomb fragment materials from the Secret War during the Vietnam War era, Laotian craftsmen/women now create meaningful jewelry and useful utensils for sale worldwide. Proceeds go back to the artisans and their communities.
Postscript: Yes, we supported the PeaceBombs Project and purchased some items. Each time I glance at my aluminum ring from that young mother’s stall in Luang Prabang, I am reminded there is hope amidst despair, reconstruction from destruction.