Will and determination help expand worldly mission of Clear Path International.
James Hathaway was late for his flight-“of course,” he says-when he saw his opportunity. Imbert Matthee was deep in the jungles of Vietnam when the purpose of his efforts crystallized. Such is the world of humanitarianism. Anything can happen at anytime? it usually does.
Hathaway and Matthee, along with Martha Hathaway and Kristen Leadem, are the co-founders of Clear Path International (CPI), an organization established in 2000 originally dedicated to the removal of unexploded ordnance-landmines, clusters bombs, etc.-in war-torn locations around the globe that now focuses on helping the victims of such explosions. “There is certainly no shortage of work,” says Martha Hathaway, CPI’s executive director and co-founder.
|Ha, who suffered serious injuries after an accidental explosion when she was three years old, holds her first-born son. Photographs courtesy of CPI.|
The bulk of that work is deadly serious. With programs in Vietnam, Cambodia, along the Thai-Burma border, and now Afghanistan, the realities of war-even wars that ended more than 30 years ago-could not be any more dramatic. Dealing with the everyday horror can be overwhelming, but Matthee recalls a moment that makes even the most trying days seem worthwhile.
Ho Van Lai was 13 years old when he and some friends were playing soccer in central Vietnam with what turned out to be an unexploded cluster bomb, which are scattered all over the central region of that nation. The bomb exploded, killing two of the children and leaving Lai severely injured. He lost a leg, an arm, part of a foot, a thumb, and an eye. Lai’s life had changed in an instant.
“When I met him, the accident had just happened a few months earlier. He was very depressed about his future,” Matthee says from CPI’s U.S. West Coast office in Bainbridge Island, Washington. “Doctors worked with him for a long time to get him prostheses and to rehabilitate. A year or two later, I went back and saw him playing soccer with some boys.& It’s those kind of stories that I live for. The most rewarding thing about this work is to go back there and see those changes.”
Tales like that go to the root of Clear Path’s mission. All four of the co-founders were working in Vietnam when it became clear that a need existed for an organization devoted to assisting survivors of unexploded ordnance, as well as the families and communities of those who didn’t survive. “You can’t look at an area like Vietnam without the issue of landmines coming up,” Martha Hathaway says from CPI’s East Coast office in Dorset, Vermont. “In terms of motivation to start the organization, all I needed to do was learn about the social injustice of the situation and I couldn’t turn my back on it. You cannot escape the impact of war on this region.”
About Clear Path International
Clear Path International (CPI) is a nonprofit humanitarian organization dedicated to serving survivors of unexploded ordnance, such as landmines and cluster bombs, from past wars and conflicts. According to CPI, someone somewhere in the world is injured or killed by an accidental detonation involving some type of these deadly explosives every 30 minutes. In order to assist as many survivors as possible, or family members of those who are killed, CPI has established programs in four locations across the globe.