From 1964 to 1973, US warplanes dropped more than 270 million cluster munitions on Laos, one third of which did not explode, according to the Lao National Regulatory Authority for unexplored ordnance (UXO). The bombings were part of a CIA-run, secret operation aimed at destroying the North Vietnamese supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and wiping out its communist allies.
“They left a trail of destruction in Laos, with US planes also using the country as a dumping ground for bombs when their original target was unavailable and planes couldn’t land with explosives,” Sue Mason, LOVEbomb creator, explained.
In 2015, Sue started working through Shui-Meng, collaborating with her bomb jewellery makers in Laos to understand the process of how the bombs were melted down and poured into wood and ash moulds. “It was at this point I realised I could pull on my design experience and start designing components myself. The brand LOVEbomb was created. LOVEbomb components are poured in Xieng Khuang Province. This is when my sense of purpose kicked in. I could actually do more than design and sell my own range of fair trade bomb jewellery. I could also become a social business and look at ways to give back to the local Laos community,” she said.
Each LOVEbomb product sold assists with safe land clearance and supports the artisans to provide for their families and village development.
In addition, the company donates a percentage of their annual sales back into the Laos community, focussing on education & sanitation.
“We have helped artisans with income opportunities; delivered school and sporting supplies to children of the province; built handwashing stations and a mud brick library. Currently, we are sponsoring the building of a new kindergarten and primary school in a very remote area of Laos that has seen virtually no NGO activity,” she explained.
Visiting Laos and seeing first-hand the positive impact that LOVEbomb has made has been both an overwhelming and humbling experience for Sue.
“It has given me a true realisation and understanding of the life these people lead. So far removed from what we take for granted in our daily life,” she said. “I will never forget the experience of meeting these wonderful people. An experience that inspires and motivates me constantly to continue this work with them. It’s a win-win: I am now living with genuine passion for what I do, and receive satisfaction from being able to make a meaningful difference in the world. In other words, I am living my truth.”
(Extracts from article in Jewellery World magazine April 2020 by Cheryl D. Harty)