America Needs A Success Story…

…With these words, Chuck Searcy ended his presentation at Cine Theater in Athens a little over a week ago. The modest audience enthusiastically applauded and converged upon him and his Vietnamese partners, Ngo Xuan Hien and Luong Tuan Hung. I worked with Chuck at The Athens Observer almost 40 years ago. He has the same unwavering commitment to public service as he did before we had grey hair.


The three men work for Project RENEW, a Vietnam-based organization that has one goal: neutralizing the effects of the war by reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by “explosive remnants of war” (ERW) in Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam. The war ended in 1975, but the residual dangers did not go away when the truce was signed.

“We have a chance to make this right,” said Chuck. “Quang Tri and the Demilitarized Zone were the scene of the some of the fiercest fighting during the war. This area was subjected to the heaviest bombing campaign in the history of the world — more than the amount of ordnance used in Europe during World War II. We dropped the bombs and we can clean up what is left behind. The large bombs that lie deep beneath the surface are not the problem — we’ll never clean those up and they don’t pose a real threat. It’s the cluster bombs and other munitions on the ground’s surface or in shallow soil that injure, kill and maim. We can get rid of these — it is a very doable challenge.”

cluster bombs

The cluster bombs and other ERW litter the countryside, farms, and fields. The young are especially vulnerable. Since 1975, 31 percent of the 7,100 casualties  in the Quang Tri Province were children. The province has 34,000 people with disabilities caused from explosives and 15,485 victims of Agent Orange, including 5,000 children born with birth effects. Nationwide, more than 100,000 Vietnamese children and adults have been killed or injured by ERW since the war’s end.  An estimated three million people are affected by Agent Orange.

The number of ERW incidents in Quang Tri from 1996-2001 were about 45 annually. After Project RENEW was founded in 2001, that number has been reduced to nine total from 2002 to 2012. The success is due to a four-prong approach: (1) ERW surveys and clearance, (2) victim assistance, (3) mine risk education,  and (4) community development.

There are people who were injured during  and since the war who have spent their entire lives without arms or legs. Now they have finally received the artificial limbs they need.

a new life

Families can finally sustain themselves because Project RENEW has given them the tools and knowledge to make a living like growing mushrooms or raising cows and chickens to feed themselves and others. Children now know what the dangerous munitions look like. They identify them and get the help needed to clear them.

growing mushrooms in Vietnamproject RENEW educates

It is truly a template for helping people help themselves; and, more importantly, it is managed by the Vietnamese people.

The efforts are funded by private citizens from the U.S. and other countries, the U.S. government, the Vietnam government, and the governments of Norway, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries. Corporate donors and international institutions also lend financial support. To meet the demands and fulfill the goal of making Vietnam safe in 10 years, however, more money is needed.

“The Vietnamese are a proud, hard-working, forgiving people,” said Chuck. “They hold no grudges and simply want their villages and farms to be safe again.  I’ve seen American vets as big as linebackers weep in the arms of much smaller Vietnamese veterans. This is a cause that should speak to all Americans. We can get this right. We can have the success story we so badly need.”

If you interested in learning more, go to this site  or the Facebook page . If you want to make a donation, go to this site .

The names and faces of the Vietnamese people are not in the headlines now. It’s not the buzz on Facebook or Twitter. But if we could come together and rally around a common cause right now, it would be the best medicine we as a nation could take. This is not about if the war was good or bad, right or wrong. This is about making good where bad was left.

America needs a success story.

Project RENEW could be that success story.


About Pam Avery Printed

I graduated from the University of Georgia in 1972 with a major in journalism (public relations) and a minor in business (marketing). My experience for the last 40 years includes working in the corporate world (banking), the newspaper industry (advertising design and sales), owning and selling a restaurant, restoring and utilizing several old buildings on the property, teaching private dance and drama lessons for 20 years, free-lance writing for a national textile firm, publishing two children’s books, and ghost writing a book. My last tour of duty before beginning the current chapter was working as a reporter, photographer, and columnist for five weekly community newspapers. And now I writing at Columbus State University in Columbus Ga. I consider myself very fortunate--I get to be around intelligent, energetic and enthusiastic young people. What a joy. I believe the written word is one of the most powerful tools known to humankind. And now we have the ability to reach millions with a simple click of the mouse. Wow.
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7 Responses to America Needs A Success Story…

  1. Ellouise Connolly says:

    This is a heart warming story. It is amazing that all these years later we are still trying to correct the remains of war.

  2. Jim Brady says:

    Thank you Pam.

    Chuck forwarded your heart filled reminder of how much one man can do if he is committed to his goal. Chuck and I grew up in Thomson. We were in the band, barbershop quartet and have always kept in touch. Our time together in Athens was during the takeover of the Academic Building for women ‘s rights (to protest the university rules that women must wear raincoats over gym gear, no less, and to have the curfew same as men). Came back and re-connected in the Observer Pete and April days.

    I’m so proud to have such an intelligent, sincere and productive man for a friend

    • Thanks for your comment Jim…Chuck is truly remarkable, and this project is a stellar one for sure. I look forward to helping him get his network bigger and more prolific here in the U.S — I do believe when people know about this, they will want to help.


  3. Lem G. says:

    If Project Renew has enough supporters in the Athens, GA at the U. for a benefit concert on their behalf > for free MP3 downloads and performance videos.

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