by Melissa Langbehn
WAUSAU (WAOW)--Each month Newsline 9 features a Jefferson Award winner. These are people recognized for their volunteer efforts. Jim Harris is one of those people. The retired D.C. Everest School Administrator and Teacher recently returned from a 3-month trip to Laos. A trip which took him to that country to help in the removal of bombs left behind from the Vietnam War. We caught up with him shortly after that trip as he met with students at the Everest Middle School.
Jim Harris makes an end of the year classroom visit to students at D.C. Everest Middle School to tell them about his most recent journey to Laos.
Jim: we spent 6 weeks in one village and there were 500 some people, 96 houses, 54 bomb craters and we blew up 105 unexploded ordinances, that's what these students made possible.
These students made it possible by selling candy.
Jim: They sell Lollies for Laos.. I like to say we get rid of the bombs ..one sucker at a time.
The money these students and others around Wisconsin donated.. funds the non- profit WE HELP WAR VICTIMS.. which Jim and his wife marty set up after traveling to Laos to learn more about the Hong culture in 2000.
Jim is a retired teacher and administrator for the D. C. Everest Schools. Marty taught in Wausau.
As educators.. the two watched with fascination the influx of Lao and Hmong refugees into the Wausau area.
They share their stories with student in Sue Thompson's Middle school class.
Sue: I teach a class at the middle school level and we focus on cultures and we focus on the
Southeast Asian culture because we have so many students from that area.. it helps the students better understand the Hmong culture.
Since 2000 Jim and Marty have traveled repeatedly to Southeast Asia.. helping families re-connect with loved ones left behind when the war ended.
The couple has turned a passion for learning about other cultures into a mission of saving lives.
Marty: When we went there it was one thing.. but to see the unexploded bombs we knew that we couldn't leave without doing more.
Jim: When I became aware of the problem I knew I had to do something."
That something has Jim working with International bomb removal groups that travel to remote villages in Laos.. removing bombs that remain a threat 40 years AFTER the war ended.
Jim : I'm the only American doing this work.. we should be doing more."