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‘I wanted to go out into the field.’ How co-op in Cambodia taught Northeastern student to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations

It took Paris Graff, a second-year student at Northeastern University, almost three days to get to the destination of her international co-op in January. The flight from her home city of San Francisco to Singapore alone took 17 hours, but Graff didn’t fret. She knew she had found a perfect co-op opportunity for herself at the Landmine Relief Fund in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

“A lot of what I was finding was office work, and I really wanted to get the chance to go out into the field,” she says. “As soon as I read the description about this co-op for the Landmine Relief Fund, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do that.’”

The Landmine Relief Fund is an American nongovernmental organization established by William and Jill Morse to support the work of a former Khmer Rouge child-soldier Aki Ra, founder of the Cambodian Self-Help Demining organization. The Morses met him in 2003 and moved from California to live full-time in Siem Reap, the second largest city in the country, in 2009.

After nearly 35 years of civil war and conflict between the 1970s and 1990s, land mines and other unexploded ordnance littered Cambodia, especially rural areas in the northwest. They killed more than 20,000 people and injured more than 45,000 others since the fighting stopped. As of 2020, an estimated 4 million to 6 million of them remain unexploded.

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