Armed & Dangerous
Join us, the final push!
The Final Push
For the last week, you've read the stories that have moved our hearts and you've committed your time and generosity to this story - so let us just say thank you.
We have raised just under $32,000 of our $50,000 goal to provide education to countless children and we're not done! Starting today through Friday, all Landmine Design sales will go directly towards building a 4th and 5th grade for the children of The MineField Village. These children deserve opportunity, hope, and our commitment to their future - we believe in this whole heartedly! We grow so excited dreaming about what's ahead for so many and we're grateful to walk with you, dear supporters.
Together, we've turned something as simple as paper into great purpose! If you believe in this story, shop this purposeful product now!
From our staff, we thank you!
There's One Thing That Cannot Be Stolen
At LandMine Design, we believe in and lead with sustainability. We set out to equip women to be self sustaining through employment and education initiatives and do our best to never implement things that would foster dependence. Our dream is to raise up women today who will raise up the generation of tomorrow. We believe to arm women with education is to be a dangerous catalyst challenging and destructing the cycle of poverty. For these reasons, the women of Landmine Design are educated weekly in the areas of health and hygiene, financial management, literacy, english, and spiritual development.
I won’t soon forget the gripping response of a young woman in our program named Srey Pov when posed with the question “What is important to you?” Srey Pov quietly responded, “Education is the most important thing I have, it’s the only thing in my life no one can take from me.” This quote from a woman I love struck me deeply and continues to. You see, these women are used to suffering, lack of opportunity, devastation, and distrust due to deep vulnerabilities present within their lives. To suffer and to fear is their norm. To live with almost nothing yet possess great fear for the day it will be taken, is their reality.
Education, now accessible to these once vulnerable women, is invaluable. Women, living with so few belongings and little financial value may now have the opportunity to write a new story of great value - one of dignity, self worth, and confidence through education.
As I reflect on this reality, much like most of our work, I’m overcome with feelings of utter heartbreak and celebration all at once. I’m heartbroken for the mother of five in her mid 30’s who prior to her employment had never read or written a word in her life, yet I celebrate her opportunity to do so today. I’m heartbroken for the stories of young girls running to neighboring Thailand in search of work, yet I celebrate the new story of opportunity we’re writing and making examples of through education today. I’m heartbroken for the mother of four who has only known survival and watched her kids grow hungry due to lack of income, yet I celebrate her opportunity to learn english and dream of new ways she’ll provide for her children.
I’ve seen first hand the benefits of education in the lives of these young women and mothers, I’ve seen its ability to transform lives, families, birth hope, and restore confidence in oneself. I feel the heartache deeply yet I celebrate and believe in the victories far more.
Today, The MineField Village houses a school through 3rd grade, yet the reality is, 3rd grade is not good enough. The children of the mothers of Landmine Design deserve more than the reality their mothers lived. They deserve more than vulnerability; they deserve more than desperation; and they deserve more options than their current state of poverty tells them they may have. We’re coming against these children’s state of poverty because we believe to arm an individual in education is to be dangerously fatal to the cycle of poverty. We believe in providing these children, just like we do their mother’s, the one thing no one may take from them.
We’re asking you to donate now if you believe in the power of education, in the power of equipping these children with the most valuable asset they may possess to write a brighter future, to equip them with the one thing no one may take from them amidst a life where robbery is their norm.
To Build Is To Believe
When you enter a rural village to bring hope and combat the cycle of poverty, facing the unknown becomes the norm. While there are “best practices” for community development initiatives, every region is different and every outcome may very well vary. I don’t claim to know everything, none of us on staff do, but we commit to doing our best and leaning in deeply to the issues in order to bring forth solutions. We face risk, we experience failure, and in unforgettable moments we encounter great success.
In these last few weeks, we’ve been flooded with updates on the new LandMine Design Headquarters building going up within The MineField Village. With deep gratitude for the incredible donor who provided the funds for this building, this will be the largest building to have ever been built in the village. The size is substantial, the risk is real. Aside from the financial undertaking of such an endeavor, we’re taking up land and resources, we’re putting a stake in the ground as a means of saying “we’re here until the fight against poverty is won.” Once completed, the building will function as the foundation for the education, employment, and opportunity we dream of multiplying throughout Cambodia. The dreaming led to building, the building must lead to execution. Execution comes with risk, hard work, resilience, and faith for the reality of our collective dreams at Landmine Design. The building is the beginning, the exciting and sometimes daunting foundation that is arming women to be dangerous agents against the cycle of poverty.
This week, we're raising funds to build another school within The MineField Village to house fourth and fifth grade because the reality is, an education through third grade is just not good enough. We’re determined to lean deeply into the lives and futures of the children of this village.
To build a school is, much like Landmine Design Headquarters, an ambitious undertaking. It will take finances, resources, teachers, curriculum development, space, and utter commitment from countless. And it comes with the question of “why only fifth grade?” While we do not claim to know how to bring forth a formal education system overnight or move an entire village to prosperity in a short five years, we do know how to take one additional step forward with every passing day. To build fourth and fifth grade is our next step, our next commitment to leaning in deeply and better understanding the ways in which we may counter the cycle of poverty these children are living within. We believe fourth and fifth grade is the next, promising step towards bringing forth the hope we dream about for the precious lives of this village.
To build is to believe. Whether in a minefield for vulnerable women with no alternative options for work or to provide fourth and fifth grade for the growing children of the village, to build is to believe.
LandMine Design is building a headquarters because we believe our collective dream to employ, educate, and raise up countless women may be a reality. We build because we believe. We are also raising funds to build a school to educate children so they may be dangerous agents combating the poverty they were hopelessly born into. We’re setting out to build because we believe.
We’re asking you to donate now if you believe in building, if you believe in equipping children for a brighter tomorrow to combat the message they’ve been living in that tomorrow is void of hope.
How do we bring forth a contagion of hope to a nation if we do not possess it ourselves? We’re undeniably hopeful for the future of education in The MineField Village, we believe in its ability to challenge the cycle of poverty and we’re choosing to build.
Immeasurable Benefits of Education
It was almost two years ago I first visited The MineField Village. There’s nothing quite like the first time you experience such a place, with overwhelmed senses the nature of my emotions followed suit. This was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, my first time to Cambodia, my first time witnessing that level of poverty. I was nervous and I could sense the women of LandMine Design were as well. I’ll never forget the first day we met. We laughed nervously; we struggled to communicate through a translator; and we discussed the admiration we already possessed for one another. .
Two young girls from this initial trip struck my heart deeply and continue to today. Their names are Volek and Samphor. Volek was in the LandMine Design Program at the time, Samphor was not but lingered near the hut in which we worked hiding behind trees and quietly admiring the jewelry being made. I remember watching Volek in her quiet nature, her timidness and that of Samphor was different than the rest - it looked like fear and it lived itself out as deep insecurity and feelings of unworthiness.
In many moments with these young girls, I watched as tears welled up in their eyes until they blinked them away. With every hug, I felt their hands grip and cling to me as if they were fearful of letting go. With every passing day when it was time to leave the village, they’d stare into my eyes and tell me to “please come back.”
The vulnerability of young girls is common. To grow and mold into a confident, self sufficient woman is no small feat. Now, imagine living on a former minefield with little or no family to call your own, lack of education, and an uncertain and seemingly hopeless future. The vulnerability we feel as women growing up in a privileged, western culture is valid yet the vulnerability Volek and Samphor have endured is something I will never know or fully understand.
For me, these young girls are remarkable heroes.
Today, Landmine Design employs both Volek and Samphor. For young girls in our program, it is a requirement to be enrolled in and attending school everyday. They're earning an income to help cover the expenses of their education as well as feed their families. They’re learning, and they’re in the top of their class. Beyond learning in their classroom, these women have been transformed.
Volek and Samphor are confident, natural leaders. They walk with poise; they speak with assurance in themselves; they assist and support their colleagues confidently; and they value themselves in a way that has me learning with every interaction. A steadiness has birthed a resilience that surpasses the hardships they are, and will surely, endure. They are beginning to understand their worth and their value.
As I write these words I blink away my own tears as I reflect on their profound transformation. I’m humbled in awe. To receive an education is more than gaining greater knowledge. To receive an education is to possess dignity and to learn to believe in oneself. While I could hug Volek and Samphor tightly, I could not remove their fear of letting go. While I could tell them they’re worthy, they could not hear me until they had an opportunity to learn it for themselves.
To arm women with knowledge through education is to arm women in profound dignity to combat the lies of worthlessness and vulnerability they’ve been replaying in their heads for far too long.
To grant women academic opportunity is more than providing lessons in math, reading, and writing - to grant education is to clothe women in self-worth and to be devastatingly dangerous to the cycle of poverty. I proudly share that Volek and Samphor both dream of being teachers one day, of raising up and pouring into children the way they wish someone could have poured into them.
We are setting out to build a school housing 4th and 5th grade. Donate now to build another school in The MineField Village — a school that Volek and Samphor may one day teach within and raise up young girls. While many benefits of education are measurable, countless are not. I hope you’ll join us in the fight to arm girls in dignity to be immeasurably dangerous to the vulnerability that has robbed far too much.
The Way She Says, I Love You
When I was young, my mom packed my lunch and I could oftentimes count on a Hershey’s kiss or sweet note to comfort me as I opened my bag. I’m blessed as I recall these memories, blessed by the simple ways in which my mom was able to say “I love you,” when she couldn’t be with me. As I write these words, there is something that stands out to me however, and it’s that my mom was able to.
Many of the women we employ at Landmine Design are mothers themselves. The Landmine Design family is filled with little ones who crawl on top of us, greet us at the door, and help with our jewelry and clean up. These mothers love their children deeply; they work tirelessly to provide for their families; and they’re seeking to educate themselves so they may be role models to their children. Yet, most of these mothers are still not able to pack their children a healthy lunch consistently let alone afforded the luxury of saying “I love you,” with a piece of chocolate.
In 2010, we built a school for the children of the MineField Village. Education, a powerful tool to challenge the cycle of poverty, we learned was simply not enough. Providing education for areas of poverty such as the MineField Village led us to needs that were greater than we understood.The school building, books, and teachers were in place, yet the focus of the children was not. The children were hungry.
We learned that meals were not guaranteed in their homes because their mothers simply often could not provide. Lack of nutrition functioned as a blockade to the academic progress we yearned for. This knowledge gave life to build and begin our feeding program, where kids line up each school day with bowls and spoons from home as the cook fills their bowls with nutritious meals. Slowly but surely we watched as bowls filled with rice, stomachs filled with food, and focus among the children improved. These children not only had the opportunity to go to school, they had the opportunity to learn, to retain, and to feed their minds for the success of tomorrow.
At Landmine Design, we believe one learns by leaning in closely and loving individuals deeply - this way of working and developing in Cambodia stems from our goal to be relentless in improving and loving better with every tomorrow. The mothers within The Landmine Design program deserve to provide their children with access to education, of course, but these mothers also deserve the little moments that say “I love you,”and “I’m thinking of you.” As I watch the children line up to receive their daily meal, I look at their bowls and spoons their mothers sent to school with them- some are blue, some have flowers on them, some children pull them from their book bags while others use their spoon to pretend it’s a drum. I look at their school uniforms, some are newly washed, some are dirty but I notice mismatched buttons leading me to believe their mother took the time to replace a missing button, to ensure her child was dressed for success.
I have to believe each day as these mothers send their children off to school, they have peace in knowing the spoon and bowl they provide their child will be met with a meal, that their newly sewn on button or freshly washed uniform will set their child apart. While they may not have chocolates to sneak in their book bags they have assurance their tomorrow will be better because of the work we’re fighting for today.
We did not know to educate a child was to dignify a mother. We learned this. To continue the education of the kids of the MineField Village is to continue the education of us as staff, to better equip, to better prepare, and to more strongly build the successes of tomorrow together.
To arm a village in education is to arm a village in progress. We believe this village is becoming a force dangerously fatal to the cycle of poverty. Donate now to help us build fourth and fifth grade within The MineField Village. Donate now so the mothers at Landmine Design can continue to say, “I love you,” in the ways they provide for their children, even if it’s just a spoon and bowl met with rice. We believetomorrow it will be far more.
Written By Kristie Dunnigan, Creative Manager
Survive to Thrive
I’ve never seen anyone look more tired or downcast. Chang How’s mother, Som Kim, would often come to us in despair, with tears streaming down her face. She was tortured by the reality she was helpless to get her son the medical care he needed for a rare blood disease that was slowly killing him. Doctors said he was too weak to survive the surgery he needed to repair his tiny body. Even if he could survive the surgery, the family did not have enough money for gas to get all the way to the hospital. The situation was hopeless with the added horror of having to watch a child die. Chang How’s disease had all of our hearts in a vice grip. We cried with him, we prayed with him, and we believed there was more in store for this little boy.
Finally Chang How was proclaimed strong enough for surgery. Our hearts were moved for this boy and his family, and through compassionate donors we were able to provide them enough funds to get to and from the hospital, and meals for the time they were there. Though Chang How had been cleared for surgery, the doctors still were not 100% optimistic. He had been sick for a long time, and they weren’t sure he would make it, but if they didn’t try the end was certain. We prayed fervently for Chang How as he was in surgery, and waited anxiously to hear the result. When the news came that he had made it through without complications, we headed to the hospital to rejoice with Som Kim, and to see still sleeping Chang How with our own eyes. The surgery went perfectly, there were no complications, and the relief in Som Kim's exhausted eyes took our breath away.
If this was the end of the story, I think we’d all agree - it’s a good one. But it isn’t the end.
When Chang How returned to his village and regained his strength, the first thing he did was put on his backpack and march on his seven year old legs through the mud to school. Throughout his sickness, the thing that made him most excited was the thought of being able to attend school, just like his older sister.
I saw Chang How some time after this surgery - and I realized that I had never even seen him walk around. He had always been too tired. But now, his distended belly is a normal size, and he runs around with his classmates in front of the school getting into mischief, and making toys out of the mud.
The dream for the MineField Village is not simply that people would be able to survive - for the most part, they’re already doing that. The dream is for them to have the opportunities they need to thrive.
Without education Chang How would have survived his disease, but his future would be somewhat bleak - struggling each day for enough food and money, defending his family against crooked debt collectors, and collapsing, exhausted into bed each night only to do the same thing all over again the next day. Because of Chang How’s access to education, he has a chance to thrive unlike anyone in his family ever has. He has a chance to be educated from a young age, which will open up a world to him that just five years ago was an impossibility.
God ensured that Chang How survived, and now, we get to join together to ensure that he thrives.
Third grade is not enough, survival is not enough. We have a chance to make a change so big it could alter the course of the history of Cambodia - together, we can arm children like Chang How and impact generations to come.
Written by Sarah Addy,
The Simplicity of a Crayon
I’ll never forget sitting down to lunch and first hearing the story of how our organization stumbled upon The MineField Village and its desperation. It was about six years ago when our Director, Karla Tillapaugh, first heard of this village and made her way to Cambodia. LightBridge International deeply cares for and sets out to equip the orphan through its initiatives within Thailand and Burma, so in seek of orphans to care for, something quite different was about to unfold.
Karla and a small team made their way over the Thailand border into Cambodia where they were soon met with 500 families living on top of an active minefield. The land and its people were scarred, the devastation described unfathomable. Brokenness and helplessness set in and these feelings lingered in Karla’s heart. Karla witnessed children living in a state of poverty she had never before seen, and found herself among about 30 children staring at her in curiosity and fear. This was the first time this remote village had ever had western visitors, the first time opportunity crossed their path of poverty.
In an effort to entertain the fearful eyes staring back at her, Karla began getting out supplies for a simple coloring project. With supplies laid out and instructions given to the best of her ability, she was met with silence and blank stares. These children had never before seen a crayon, the concept of how to hold one was foreign.
Overcome with disbelief at the lack of opportunity and prosperity, Karla stopped.
This profound moment is when hopelessness redefined itself as opportunity. While Karla didn’t know how to save a village, she knew how to teach a child to hold a crayon. While she didn’t know how to bring forth a formal education system, she saw deserving and longing eyes before her whom she was convicted to serve.
At Landmine Design, we’ve never claimed to know everything about community development or to possess knowledge on how to challenge and transform the prevalence of poverty at large. At Landmine Design we see yearning eyes, deserving hearts, and have a collective dedication to take steps forward daily.
The simplicity of a crayon sparked the contagion of hope we see multiplying itself today. The simplicity of a crayon changed the posture of one fearless leader causing her to lean in deeply to the needs of an entire village. Today The MineField Village has a school through third grade, but that is not enough, and we’re fighting for opportunity beyond third grade for children who today undoubtedly know how to hold a crayon, but deserve to learn far more in the years to come.
Donate now to help as we set out to arm children with education to be dangerously fatal to the cycle of poverty. Donate now if you believe in the power of one small action like the simplicity of holding a crayon - yet a crayon has always possessed the ability to write a story, and a beautifully colorful one at that.
Written by Kristie Dunnigan, Creative Manager
Arming Children in Education
At Landmine Design, we serve those living within a dangerous environment. The MineField Village is scarred, marked with the horrors of the past impressing fear and danger upon the hearts of many today.
This week we’re coming alongside our parent non-profit, LightBridge International, and claiming something different. What if, rather than falling subject to the way in which things have always been, we armed individuals to be dangerous to the cycle of poverty? What if we armed individuals with goodness to replace the markings of evil? What if we replaced starvation, homelessness, and vulnerability with that of safety, education, and dignity?
This week, we’re taking a stand. We believe deeply in the power of education, and we're setting out to raise funds in order to continue the education of the children in the The MineField Village by building 4th and 5th grade. This week we’re setting out to make sisters, mothers, daughters, and community members armed for good, and dangerous to the cycle of poverty because we believe anything less is just not good enough.
Children deserve an education, mothers deserve an opportunity to provide and to equip.
We hope you’ll follow along and join us in this fight. We believe that together, we can endanger the cycle of poverty present within The MineField Village today, and for generations to come. We’re seeking to lead with education, and we believe in the powerful story that may unfold as we do so.
Written by Kristie Dunnigan, Creative Manager