Local Quakers establish fund to help rid the world's hot spots of deadly landmines (USA)

WOONSOCKET -- Philip E. Mayer Jr. became a member of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, seven years ago because he could identify with the Quakers' core values of peace, integrity, simplicity, community and equality.So, when his mother, a Roman Catholic, mailed him a newspaper story from the Philadelphia Inquirer recently about the Woodstown, N.J. Friends Meeting's effort to create a fund to purchase landmine detectors to help the United Nations in its mission to remove underground landmines throughout the world, he thought it would be a good program for his congregation at Smithfield Friends Meeting in Woonsocket to get involved with.


"We can't address all the problems in the world, but we can get involved in one good cause and try and make a difference," says Mayer, 33, a resident of Jewett City, Conn., and professor of economics and American government at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn.

Every year, Mayer says, landmines kill and injure thousands of innocents, including children who are just looking for a place to play. Today, children in at least 68 countries are threatened by landmines. Over 110 million landmines of various types, plus millions more unexploded bombs, shells and grenades, remain hidden around the world. Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia have suffered 85 percent of the world's landmine casualties.

Overall, African children live on the most mine-plagued continent, with an estimated 37 million mines embedded in the soil of at least 19 countries.

Angola alone has an estimated 10 million land-mines and an amputee population of 70,000, of whom 8,000 are children. Since May 1995, children have made up about half the victims of the 50,000 to 100,000 anti-personnel mines laid in Rwanda.
Once laid, a mine may remain active for up to 50 years. "If we can save just one child from losing his legs or his life than it is worth it," Mayer says.

When Mayer read the story in the newspaper clip his mother sent, he was impressed by the fact that the Woodstown Meeting had collected enough funds to donate three land mine detectors as part of a program involving the United Nation's Mine Action team, the U.S. State Department's Office of Weapons Removal and West Virginia-based Schonstedt Instrument Company, which donates magnetic landmine detectors for every one that is purchased at $1,029. More than 150 mine detectors are in use in Somalia, Laos, Kenya, Vietnam, and Tajikistan as a direct result of the program, Mayer says.

"Every donation, regardless of its size, will help, since the company in effect matches each donation dollar for dollar," he said. Because the Woodstown, N.J. Friends Meeting is roughly the same size as the Woonsocket congregation, Mayer thought it would be a good program to take part in. As a member of the Smithfield Friends Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee, he took the idea to the 50-member congregation, which embraced and approved it last month.

"As a result, the Smithfield Friends Meeting in Woonsocket has decided to begin a fund to purchase mine detectors that will help the United Nations find these mines before they harm or kill someone," Mayer says.

Here's how the program works: organizations or churches like Smithfield Friends Meeting purchase for donation any number of detectors at list price ' currently $1,029 ' and Schonstedt will match the donation unit for unit. Schonstedt will then ship the units directly to underserved countries according to UN priorities.

Mayer has already made a pledge of $50 and an anonymous benefactor has pledged to match every donation up to $500 made to Smithfield Friends Meeting's fund. Anyone interested in helping can send a donation to: Land Mine Detector Fund, Smithfield Friends Meeting, 108 Smithfield Road, Woonsocket, R.I. 02985.

Von: 19.07.2008, www.woonsocketcall.com by Joseph Fitzgerald

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