2020 | Peace Trees Vietnam
PeaceTrees Vietnam, an NGO based out of Seattle, WA, received the Distinction in International Studies Award (DISA) for its work to heal the legacy of the Vietnam War on the children and families in the dangerous Quảng Trị Province by removing explosives, returning land to safe use, promoting peace and cultivating a brighter future through demining, building, planting and educating.
Quảng Trị is the northern-most province in the former South Vietnam that remains the most heavily war-impacted province in all of Vietnam. Forty percent of all ordnance used during the Vietnam War, equating to more than all the ordnance dropped in Europe during World War II, was deployed in this one small province.
The DISA is annually awarded to a Pacific Northwest based organization that has shown outstanding, international accomplishments. Students and staff of the Martin Institute, part of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho, form the DISA committee to research and commemorate exceptional effort.
Founded in 1995 by Jerilyn Brusseau, sister of a US army pilot killed during the Vietnam War, PeaceTrees Vietnam recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. They have decontaminated over 900 acres, handled nearly 118,000 explosives, planted over 43,000 trees and built over 100 family homes, 12 libraries, 16 schools and 3 community centers. The organization currently employs 102 local Vietnamese miners who clear 60-100 unexploded ordnance (UXO) a day.
“We are fortunate to have good relationships within the province that allow us to work really effectively in partnership with Quảng Trị at the village level. Projects are often initiated at the village level,” confirmed Executive Director Claire Yunker during a recent video conference with the DISA committee.
Yunker also joked that when their founder, Jerilyn Brusseau, visits Quảng Trị, she is treated like a celebrity and all the Vietnam veterans come out of the woodwork to greet her.
The vision of the organization is a Vietnam completely cleared of dangerous UXO and communities fully supported in their goals for safety, resiliency, education and economic success. The organization is on target for reaching their goal of clearing the Quảng Trị province by 2030.