Cambodia – Moa Sokleang

CAT_Moa Sokleang_2

From Fear to Freedom – Sokleang’s Journey to Safe Land with APOPO

My name is Sokleang, and I’m 37 years old. I’ve lived on this new land for more than three years and around this contaminated community for a total of seven years now. There are seven members in my family: me, my husband, and our five children. Three of them are girls, aged 20, 6, and 2 months. The other two are boys, aged 16 and 14. The three older ones are not home with me; they went to work in Phnom Penh at a Chinese restaurant. The 6-year-old attends school daily. Our school is very far from our isolated home, so my husband and I take her to school by motorbike. We base our living on farming and raising livestock. Occasionally, we also get hired to plow lands for other farmers.

When I settled in this quiet area, known as “Trorpeang Plous Village,” I had heard many stories about landmines, especially the anti-tank mine. Since living here, I have heard of two cases already. Everyone is forbidden from using heavy vehicles like tractors in agriculture; most of the farming is done by our own power and efforts. Explosions set off by cows and buffaloes are so common that our farmers never dare to release their livestock too far into the wild. We always live and travel in a small bubble that we believe to be safe, as the old generation did.

The area is heavily contaminated, which really scares me. I never allow my kids to travel too far from the known land, especially not into the forest. I’m very worried they will encounter hidden explosives there. None of us adults even dare to stray from the old tracks that have been used since wartime. Most often, we travel around the area by motors, small tractors, and the big tractors, always worried that the weight of these might trigger a mine. We live in fear of so many hidden mines.

This is why we are very grateful that APOPO has lent a hand to clean up Trorpeang Plous Village. This humanitarian work has been saving many lives around the area. The first time APOPO came, I was very curious because I didn’t know they were here to clear landmines and I had never heard that rats could be trained to detect landmines either. I just saw the big excavator removing vegetation around the area. I was even more shocked after my child told me that she had seen a rat and they would be using rats to search for mines here. What’s more, is that my child has started to like the animal, maybe because of what they have done for our community.

I’ve grown up with landmines. When I was young, my mother and I encountered mines in our cassava plantation. It was very scary because those mines were just planted everywhere. I remember that before APOPO came, my land was dense with forest and bushes and for sure had many hidden mines underneath.

After APOPO came and did all the clearance, I’m now able to build a warm house to live in without any fear. My children are able to move freely around the house and nearby area. The happiest thing is that I’m able to release my animals freely around this clean area. We and the others are so thankful as we are able to use the heavy tractors to plow the land again without feeling worried that we might activate an anti-tank mine. Of course, having safe land back provides us with more opportunities; we start to farm and raise more cows so that we can make more sales. I’m also able to plant more grass around my house for the animals to graze.

Donate now and help APOPO return safe land to local communities so they can rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

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