At the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, a non-governmental organisation with a mission to clear landmines and unexploded munitions around the world, Tony Connell is doing his part to reduce the number of people killed each year by these hidden dangers. With more than 4000 people, half of whom are children, dying annually from landmines, the importance of Connell's work cannot be overstated.
Connell, a former NZ Army soldier from Christchurch, has spent the last decade helping to safely remove mines in several war-torn countries, including Ukraine where he currently serves as programme manager for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action. He and his team perform three main functions: educating the population about living with mines, surveying areas to locate mines, and clearing mines from those areas.
Education is the foundation of the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action's work, as Connell knows all too well. With many people living in areas that are contaminated with mines, it's important for them to know how to deal with the threat safely. Survey teams then go out to locate the mines, using direct evidence to confirm their presence. This is a dangerous job, but one that is necessary to keep people safe.
The most difficult part of the work is clearing the mines. This is where Connell's expertise as a former soldier comes in handy, but even he admits that it's dangerous work. Without proper training and safety measures, the risk of injury or death is high. But the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action is committed to doing the job right, to ensure that the areas they clear are safe for people to live and work in.
Connell's work has taken him to many countries over the years, but his current focus is on Ukraine. Despite the danger and the difficulty of the work, he finds inspiration in the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people. During a recent visit to his hometown of Christchurch, he spoke to residents at Russley Village about his work and the people he's met in Ukraine.
The residents at Russley Village were inspired by Connell's dedication to his work and wanted to help in any way they could. They organised their village craft group, U3A, Zonta group, and others to knit items that Connell could distribute when he returns to Ukraine. In total, they donated approximately 250 items to this worthy cause, with another 400 hats, mittens, gloves, and scarves to be added to the collection over the weekend.
At Russley Village, we are proud to support Tony Connell and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action in their mission to make the world a safer place. We are grateful for their tireless efforts to clear landmines and unexploded munitions, and we are honoured to be able to contribute in our own small way. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those affected by this hidden danger.
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