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Mine Awareness Week at James Madison University

Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.

One of the goals of the Mine Action Information Center (MAIC) is to use all of the resources available to it because of its collegiate setting. The central offices of MAIC share a building on the James Madison University campus with students, professors and daily classes. One of the major benefits of this humanitarian programís location is the potential for student involvement in the very urgent issue of demining. MAIC recently experienced a significant amount of student involvement and curiosity when political science and geography students combined to organize Demining Education Week.

Throughout the first week of November 1999, every JMU student who walked through the commons in front of the dining hall had to ask "What are these red Xís and why are they scattered everywhere?" The red Xís were the brainchild of the group of students responsible for demining education week. "There are going to be red Xís on the commons and we arenít going to tell people until later in the week that they actually represent landmines so that the students will understand how easy it is to step on one," junior Jen McKeever said. After learning that the Xís represented landmines, it was staggering for students to realize how many normal activities, such as riding a bike or walking a dog are affected by landmines. Later in the week, students could hear speakers such as Tom Smith, from the Department of Defense, and MAICís own Joe Lokey.

Propelled by the students, the Demining Awareness Week atmosphere was not as somber as its subject was, and publicity for the event was similar to advertising for other student activities. On one of the warmest days of the week in November, students swarmed around the landmine awareness booth to see what all the hype was about. The Franklins, a local folk band, played for the day and spoke about landmine statistics in between songs. At the awareness table, the students handed out free landmine-awareness comic books and sold green ribbons for donations to Landmine Survivorís Network. Many JMU students showed interest in initiating an Adopt-A-Minefield program at the university. To date, MAIC has involved over 70 JMU students with their efforts. For students, the four years spent in college present many important social issues from which to pick and choose. With MAIC and its agenda front and center on the college campus, who knows how many JMU students will graduate, and later contribute to the humanitarian effort of demining.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright said of MAIC at JMU, "James Madison Universityís Mine Action Information Center has grown into far more than a clearinghouse for knowledge. It is expanding the boundaries of knowledge about a host of mine-related topics. We have some 80 professors and students at the University to thank for that."