Week 9: Children and UXOs

If you ask most people my age if they want children, you will get a variety of answers. Some will say yes! I love kids. Others will say eventually. And if they are my friends a decent amount of them will say they have no intention of having their own children. Adoption is on the table but not having any kids would also suffice. I am in the camp that I don’t know what I will want that far in the future as I don’t know what I want for myself in the next year. But for me there are more reasons not to have children than to have them. One of them being that this planet is already overpopulated and there have not been enough efforts made to make sure our planet survives after the next 30 years which makes me wonder whether bringing another child in the world is a good idea. 

Furthermore, I personally grew up pretty privileged. My parents were able to send me to camp every summer, if I needed help on a certain subject my mother would get me a tutor, and I have never had to have a real job. As a result, I would ideally like to have children only if I could provide them with the same opportunities and privileges my parents worked hard to give me. I would like to raise them in the safest environment possible and provide them with the love they need to be well-rounded individuals. But after this trip to Xieng Khouang I am reminded of the varying degrees of privilege. 

Xieng Khouang is a northern province of Laos that is very close to the Vietnam border. During the Vietnam War the US executed 580,000 bombing missions in Laos with the hopes of disturbing the Ho Chi Minh Trail that was transporting goods and soldiers to communist forces in Vietnam. Due to its proximity to Vietnam, Xieng Khouang Province is the most heavily bombed province. Unfortunately, of the millions of bombs that were dropped, only 30% detonated. This leaves large parts of Laos inhabitable or dangerous because of unexploded ordinances (UXO). This has caused many life changing injuries and deaths as well as negatively impacted the development of Laos. 

The reason why this is connected to my earlier discussion of having children is that a 40% of the post-war victims and survivors killed or injured by these UXOs in the last decade were children. Children who are just exploring in their backyard or playing a game with their neighbors. They find or accidentally hit a UXO and their natural curiosity results in death or major injury. In the UXO Survivor Information Centre run by the Quality Life Association(QLA), I read the stories of little boys that had been playing or searching for scrap metal to sell but had instead found a bomb. I cannot imagine the pain a parent would go through to find out their child died just playing or the daily stress they experience not knowing if their children will return to them alive and uninjured. 

Right now I am reading a book about an Indian-American woman who is unable to bear children and decides to go to India for the first time to find some answers. She states that as she looks at the children in the village her grandmother lived in and meets the grandchildren of an old family friend she realizes how privileged her children’s lives would have been. While these children have to worry about food, their social standing, and diseases like polio, her children would be worrying about prom and friends, and whether they can get an iPad or a laptop. Should I have children, even if I cannot give them tutors and vacations, they will not have to worry about an unseen bomb changing or ending their lives. They would for the most part have equal opportunities and hopefully not have to worry about going hungry or being affected by a preventable disease. Because of where I was born and the circumstances by which I was raised my descendants and I will live privileged lives and that is something to be incredibly mindful of.

If you want to learn more about UXOs in Laos and the work QLA does to support UXO survivors click here.

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