The Landmine Relief Fund (LMRF) is an American charity founded in 2004 to support the work of the Cambodia Landmine Museum, Cambodian Self Help Demining, both registered Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) in Cambodia. The LMRF is a 501(c)3 charity in the United States.
In 2003 my wife and I first heard about a man in Cambodia who was clearing landmines ‘by hand’, and had ‘adopted’ over a dozen children wounded by landmines. Impressed by what we read about him, we travelled to Cambodia to find this man and his wife and learn more about their story.
We arrived in Siem Reap and I left our tour group to find Aki Ra and his Museum. Arriving at his home, a makeshift museum of sticks and huts at the end of a dirt road, I met Aki Ra and Hourt for the first time. I read his story at the museum and found out more about his work. He began clearing landmines, at his own expense, by hand, after over a decade of fighting.
I asked him what his objective was and he said “To make my country safe for my people.” I asked how he intended to make Cambodia safe and he said “ I’ll clear the landmines.” I said “ …and how long will do that” to which h replied “Until my country is safe for my people!”
A pretty clear mission statement.
Before I left on the second day I asked Aki Ra how much it cost him to clear landmines, alone, for a month. He looked at askance and said “Maybe $450.” My wife and I talked briefly and I said, “OK, you have $450 every month” to which he rolled his eyes. Eventually we convinced him of our seriousness and giving him $450, we left Cambodia and returned to the USA.
We began providing Aki Ra with financial support, to the tune of $450 a month throughout the next 2 years. To formalize our support we founded we established the Landmine Relief Fund as recognized 501(c)3 tax-exempt US charity. All donations are tax deductible.
In 2006 Aki Ra was ordered to cease his unorthodox demining methods and secure a license from the government of Cambodia. He ceased his activities in 2006.
As clearing landmines and UXOs was, essentially, Aki Ra’s raison d’être, he asked us in 2007 to help him become licensed by the Cambodian government. I moved to Cambodia in 2007 to work with Aki Ra in establishing his non-governmental organization (NGO) and securing a license to clear mines and UXOs in Cambodia.
I had expected to remain in the country for about 4 months. I was in Cambodia for 2 years, at the end of which I became a co-founder of Aki Ra’s demining NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining.
The LMRF funds over 50% of CSHD’s budget. In 2009 we secured a grant from the United States Department of State, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement for $100,000. This covers 50% of the operational costs of CSHD. The balance is provided by people like you, who are reading our story and want to see the world a safer place for the people who live here and call Cambodia home.
The LMRF has salary expenses of $12,000 per year. Our total overhead costs amount to less than 10% of our collected funds. The rest of our money is used in Cambodia to support the work of CSHD and the Landmine Museum.
Your donations help clear landmines, support three-dozen at-risk children who live at the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Center, and pay teachers in small village schools built by CSHD. Your support is changing lives and impacting people you will never know.
John Donne, an English poet said: “No man is an island…..any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”