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Monday, 28 April 2014

What difference can one person make?

A few weeks ago, I was overwhelmed with the urge that I needed to start changing things, but I didn't know where to begin and I had that futile feeling I was one person in a sea of many, trying to swim upstream. (Here if interested, but not necessary to read for this post).

While I was away, I learnt the lesson of what a difference one person can make. I will be covering the huge broader issues of this topic later but for now, I am just looking this story for the point of one person can make a difference, and I apologise if the cursory storytelling seems insensitive.

Aki Ra was a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, as a teen he changed sides and fought with the Vietnamese troops against them. In those years he learnt a lot about landmines.

Cambodia today, is covered in over 5,000,000 landmines, and the same again in UXO (unexploded ordinance). After years of fighting, Aki Ra started returning to the villages where he'd laid mines, and began ridding the land of them. Initially on his own, with his wife and uncle, and with his home made tools.

One person out of every 290 in Cambodia will be a victim to landmines or UXO. In the villages, there were many child victims of the mines, who were living a poor and desperate existence. So Aki Ra and his wife started to take them home to care for them too.

They opened a little museum in their home to raise money for the work and care they were doing. This has grown, evolving into the current facility, The Cambodian Landmine Museum and School. The school now houses over 3 dozen children, not just landmine victims but those with physical, emotional and family difficulties.

Aki Ra started an NGO (non government organisation), Cambodian Self Help Demining and his team grew. Aki Ra has personally removed 50, 000 land mines. In 2006 he was told his way was too dangerous by the UN, so he stopped. However, a year later he was retraining in the UN safety approved methods and continues his work today.

The CSHD removes land mines from 'low priority' villages, making it safe for those not represented by the big organisations.

I tell this story because one person can make a difference. He just started doing it. Over time, it grew into not one but two organisations that help many, many people. Both the orphanage and the work clearing the landmines has changed thousands of lives for the better.

So if you are unhappy with choices our government is making, do something about it.
If you are unhappy with the issues of climate change, do something about it.
If you are unhappy with inequality anywhere in the world, do something about it.

We can make a difference, we don't need a grand plan, we just need to start doing it.
Even a small axe can fell a big tree if it is sharp enough.

If you are interested on reading more or donating, these are useful links.
Cambodian Self Help Demining
Cambodian Land Mine Museum and School
The Australian Project
Vietnam Veterans Mine Clearing Team

Linking up with #ThankfulThursday. I am grateful there are people out there making a difference. I am picking up a donation today from a stranger off FB to give to the Women's Refuge. She asked me what my connection was with them and I had to say nothing - I just wanted to start making a difference somehow. It's small, but it hopefully helps someone. And #RubyTuesdayToo


  1. How inspirational. Thanks for sharing. You are so right, one person can make difference

  2. Wow. Stories like this inspire me to do those everyday little things that will make a difference.

  3. That is just truly inspirational. Thanks for sharing this uplifting story!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  4. What a great story and you are right - one person can make a difference - we just need to start somewhere.
    Have the best day !
    Me xox

  5. Wow, I think we often do think, what can I do as just person, a great story of how much one person can do :) Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love stories like this!! So inspiring. Everyday people having such a huge impact in the world.

  7. Wow what an inspiring story. It's so amazing to think that one man has brought about so much change in his country.

  8. We need to hear more stories like this, about ordinary people who actually make a change in the world. Imagine how many lives he has saved, just be refusing to accept that one person can't do enough?
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. It can be overwhelming if you think about the grand scheme of making a difference, but it takes one step at a time and you have to start somewhere. A very inspirational post Lydia. Thanks for sharing it. It's made me ponder about the things I want to change and how I can start the process.

  10. Such an important thing to remember - every meaningful change has to start somewhere, with someone. Thanks for giving me something to ponder.

  11. So true Lydia, we too often think "why bother?". If we all change that way of thinking, we can make a difference.

  12. There is no doubt that we are the difference that the world deserves. When I spoke to Natalie a few weeks back about her choice to move to Uganda I was overwhelmed by how simple she made me realise "making a difference" can be. I think it is a perspective we all need to adopt, about world issues, society issues and even our own lives. Great post xx

  13. Thanks for sharing, it can be so easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought that we're just one person, it's great to be reminded that we CAN make a difference.

  14. I'd love to know the first step in stopping a lot of things our government does! Rant, rave, have a protest, blog about it, whinge about it, boycott it, they still seem to do whatever they please, regardless of who it hurts. This is a great story, maybe we can take those landmines he's removing and put them in Canberra :P

  15. 1 in 290, mostly children. Just horrific. Landmines are the most revolting, disgusting, inhumane things ever. And I completely agree: We can all make a difference, no matter how small.

  16. I couldn't agree more, it just takes passion, motivation and determination and one person can help make a difference. Those stats are sad. It's too easy to say it's 'too hard' and 'what can I do'.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've learnt something new today. I admire anyone who resolves to do something so selfless (and dangerous) with the welfare of others in mind. Much the same goes to those who spread awareness.

  18. Sometimes we think we can't bring about change because of the immensity of the issue. I love Mother Teresa's quote, "Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and start with the person nearest to you." Lovely inspiring post.

  19. Agree, agree, agree! I love all of your posts, Lydia, espeically this one. What a story.

  20. Your added comment is so true. I find the same for mental health and it's so frustrating. When Charlotte Dawson and then Robin Williams killed themselves I found it so frustrating that there were all of these people saying that we needed to start talking about mental illness. It felt like a kick in the teeth for those of us who are already talking about it. Of course it all went back to 'normal' once the spotlight went out.

  21. What a nice story to read, a small person can create something new and difference, we have freedom of speech and if we can share our opinion feel free to raise it. Thanks for sharing.