Tuesday 14th December 2010
After the annual dinner of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers last month, Bridging and Commercial bumped into Graham Allen (pictured), the managing director of Commercial Money Matters.
Asking him what he would be doing for the festive season, we were surprised to hear that he would be spending part of it in the jungles of Cambodia in his role as UK Volunteer Ambassador for MAG – the Mines Advisory Group.
Incredibly impressed by his altruistic way of spending the holiday – and as MAG is an extremely worthwhile cause – we were keen to find out more.
As a UK humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO), MAG is based in Manchester. and works in over 35 countries dealing with the remnants of post-conflict materials, including landmines, bombs, rockets, and small arms (such as rifles etc).
The charity is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for its work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines [www.icbl.org], which culminated in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty – the international agreement that bans anti-personnel landmines, sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention.
Speaking about MAG’s international workers, Graham praised the work they did, and paid tribute to one of MAG’s international workers, Stephen ‘Darby’ Allan from Portsmouth, who was tragically killed in a landmine explosion in October while working in Kapoeta, southern Sudan.
Despite the dangers involved, Graham leaves for Cambodia tomorrow (Wednesday the 15th of December) in a self-funded trip – only benefiting from the charity’s transport in the field whilst he’s there.
He said: “I have long been a supporter of MAG and so I’m going to see the work that the organisation carries out to gain a better understanding of the local difficulties, so that I can report on it to the wider world when I get back by writing articles and giving talks.”
On how the charity decides which areas are cleared, Graham said: “This very much depends on local priorities and requirements. A large number of agencies are involved at different stages of the process, but in the main the decision is based on liaison and negotiation with national and local government and community leaders themselves.
He continued: “MAG looks to promote human security, food and water security and community-based prosperity by removing the restrictions on innocent people caused by conflict. MAG involves the community wherever possible with its work and puts on Mines Risk education classes for local residents of all ages.”
Having previously visited mine-affected countries such as Vietnam and Nambia, Graham is somewhat used to dealing with difficult situations, however when he arrives in Cambodia, he will not be faced with an easy task, as a number of Cambodian communities are still living under the shadow of fear from a conflict that ended more than 30 years ago.
“Tragically, this year 59 people have fallen victim to anti-tank mines alone in Cambodia, with 24 of those casualties killed.” Graham added. “The number of people killed or injured by all types of mines or unexploded ordnance in Cambodia this year is much higher – more than 200.
“Only last month 13 people were killed when the vehicle they were in detonated an anti-tank mine in Cambodia’s Battambang province. The victims include a seven-month-old baby girl and a four-year-old boy, who had been with their parents picking chillies in the fields.”
Some of the victims' belongings
MAG’s Chief Executive Lou McGrath OBE has spoken about this incident, describing how “landmines – vicious and indiscriminate weapons – continue to pose a daily risk of death to people here, despite the hard work of all the clearance agencies in the last two decades”.
In May and June this year MAG’s clearance teams removed and destroyed more than 2,600 lethal landmines and other deadly items of unexploded ordnance from Battambang province, making upwards of 300,000 square metres of land safe for people to use.
Describing what he will be doing whilst in Cambodia, Graham said: “First of all I will go through the necessary briefings on orientation, safety, geography etc. Safety is absolutely paramount for MAG, the safety of all members of the community, staff and visitors. Then I hope to be going on mobile operations, which will involve being out in the field watching mines removed and destroyed, from a safe distance, of course.”
Although he will be away from most of his family, including his sons and grandchildren, over Christmas, Graham will have the chance to see his brother in Cambodia, as he works full time for MAG in a field-based research and development role for mines clearance.
MAG is funded by a broad range of donors and charitable giving, and in his spare time Graham is actively involved in giving talks around the country to raise awareness of MAG’s work.
He said: “My most recent talk was to the University of Nottingham’s Human Rights Law Centre, and I talk to all sorts of groups, including Rotary groups, church groups and schools. Many of the groups that I address take the opportunity of making donations to support the work of MAG.”
So spare a thought, while you are relaxing and enjoying the festive season, for the men and women of MAG who carry out the vital work of supporting communities in claiming back their land and gaining security. And spare a thought too for Graham Allen, one of our brokers, who will be out in Cambodia over Christmas, learning more about MAG’s work so that he can spread the word when he returns.
Graham’s last words to us before he left were that he hopes his example will encourage other businesspeople to support MAG’s work.
We at Bridging and Commercial feel that MAG is a worthy cause and have decided to support their work, not only by making a donation, but also by contributing this piece and giving you, our readers, a link to make a donation to MAG.
To make a donation to MAG’s work, visit: http://www.maginternational.org/donate
For more information about Graham Allen or about him doing a talk about MAG for your organisation, visit http://www.commercialmoneymatters.co.uk
You can also contact MAG’s fundraising team on 0161 238 5486 to find out how your company can support MAG’s vital work.
For more information about MAG's work in Cambodia please visit: http://www.maginternational.org/cambodia