I’d Hit That!
Okay, let’s get the ball rolling here. It’s time to saddle up and take a big batch of mirrors on the road.
A brand-new trip to some all-new places and departing very soon indeed. I’m gonna load up the cargo bike and head out on my most ambitious trip ever November 15th. A fabulous NGO called ‘EXCEED’ (the former Cambodia Trust) operate Prosthetic and Orthotic schools – a 3 year program – in 5 countries throughout S and SE Asia: Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia. The graduates are then qualified to fit, mold, assemble and design all manner of artificial limbs and orthotic supports and braces. The students generally come from parts elsewhere in the ‘disadvantaged world’ and will take their new expertise yet further afield.
Your prosthetist, the technician who builds your new limb for you after your traumatic loss; he or she is going to be one of first and most important people you will meet in your new and challenging life as an amputee. Right? If I can teach/train these technicians Mirror Therapy to combat Phantom Limb Pain in their Brand New patients… right at the beginning… how Golden is that? Maximum Dissemination to the people who Most Need It. Boom!
So that’s what I aim to do: visit each of these P&O schools in each respective country and spend, say, 2 afternoons training them in the therapy and treating whatever in/out patients are there at the time. I’ll arrive on a bicycle on my own steam – it’s a major motivational tool of mine (plus it’s a lot of fun) – with a rack-load of free mirrors which I will in turn leave behind for clinical use and incoming amputees. They can loan out the mirrors the way a library loans books. That’s pretty cool too.
Then, I’ll take the opportunity of being ‘in-country’ and take the bike and a fresh load of mirrors into the provinces and visit as many hospitals and clinics as possible, plus directly to the poorer amputees right in their own villages. Relieving amputees of phantom pain and bringing a little joy all along the way. It’s magic. The best idea I’ve ever had.
It’s bold and ambitious and totally possible and I’m going to need a lot of help. For starters, I’ll need funding; I’ll need money. There’s a ‘DONATE’ button on this page. Please dig a little into your wallet and help a man achieve a really meritorious goal. One mirror costs, like, 10-20 dollars (depending on where I make them). And one mirror can make one amputee’s life worth living again. I’d hit that! Again, departure November 15th.
National Geographic Explorer Documentary Piece
Just back from the experience of a lifetime. Nat Geo filmed me (and Me and My Mirror) as the central character in a 1 hour documentary on the tragic impact of UXO (unexploded ordnance ie: cluster bombs etc). Cluster bombs are among the ‘dirtiest’ munitions in the world; they fall out of the sky at random, are meant to explode on impact, are often filled with shrapnel and are designed to kill, or at least maim. In Lao almost 100% of the victims were innocent civilians.
Some Stats on America’s bombing of Lao:
- It was a ‘secret war’; most Americans, certainly the general public, were unaware of what their government was doing
- They carried out this atrocity for a full 9 years, from ’64 thru to ‘73
- In over 580,000 bombing missions they dropped over 2 million tons of munitions on a fundamentally neutral country that was also essentially uninvolved in the Vietnam aggression
- The bombing was the equivalent of one B-52-load of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hrs/day, for 9 years. More bombs than they dropped in Germany and Japan combined during WWII
- Over ½ of the victims of cluster munitions worldwide are Lao.
It goes on and on. An important fact too, and something I only really realized (this was my 2nd work-trip there) is that cluster munitions (the Lao call them ‘Bombies’) were nowhere near the only thing they dropped. Everywhere in the countryside you find de-fused (one hopes) collections of: 500, 750, even 2000 pound bombs, and tons of other aerial military hardware fell from the sky. There is also a horrifying variety of ground munitions too, some of which is still live: rockets and mortars, landmines, hand-grenades etc. The US, in their wisdom conducted a proxy ground war by hiring mercenary Mong Lao soldiers to fight the communist ‘Pathet Lao’.
So all this evil stuff is still out there – some estimate that up to 1/3rd of the explosives did NOT detonate at the time. People still find it the hard way every year; very often children because they play with it; the bombies come in all shapes and sizes but nefariously look like toys. Lao has come a long way but is still one of the poorest countries on Earth, so other victims -the poor – include scrap-metal hunters and villages trying to re-use the ordnance for ‘dynamite fishing’.
Many, many of the victims – usually people on the perimeter of a detonation, the central figures get wasted – become amputees; they lose limbs.
Enter Me and My Mirror and enter National Geographic Explorer; it was a perfect marriage. I was keen to treat some people and draw attention to my work and its validity and Nat Geo wanted to draw America and the rest of the world’s attention to the terror of what was done and what continues to happen; the ‘Legacy of the Secret War’, so-to-speak.
I’ll post many more photos and anecdotes but I gotta hop just now and before that I need to thank – over and over – the fine people from Nat Geo: the producers (thanks Lucy and Leila!), the head camera dude (thanks Dane), the #2 camera (thanks Joe!), and the sound-guy, Mike the guy with the mike: Thanks. These guys are, after all, the best in the business and I am sure that the end result will be both beautiful and thought-provoking. There were an awful lot of locals who provided indispensable help too; both Lao guys (+ 1 super-beautiful girl) and ‘falangs’ or white dudes too. Thanks so very much to you all.
It really was the experience of a lifetime and I don’t expect an outfit of this caliber to call again anytime soon.
Lots more to come, including an air-date for the film.
Yours as ever, stephen