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This company is turning Laos’ unexploded bombs into jewelry

November 25, 2016 at 6:30 PM EST
In the days after Thanksgiving, malls will be packed with bargain hunters. But the following week, many shoppers will participate in “Giving Tuesday,” an occasion that focuses on charity. One company that may attract attention: Article 22, which aims to convert unexploded bombs in Laos, left over from the Vietnam War, into jewelry. Proceeds fund the cleanup of these dangerous legacies of conflict.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: On what the stores call Black Friday, the unofficial launch of the holiday shopping season, special correspondent Mike Cerre reports on a growing effort to expand the scope of seasonal giving to include charitable causes, with a focus on one company turning bombs into bracelets.

MIKE CERRE: Looking to escape the holiday shopping madness, to give something more unique and meaningful this year? This coming Giving Tuesday, you can buy a goat online through CARE USA to help an African family in need, or, closer to home, perhaps some school supplies for your neighborhood school through DonorsChoose.com.

For something a little more exotic, how about jewelry handmade in Laos out of unexploded bombs to help the Mines Advisory Group clear UXOs?

HENRY TIMMS, Founder, Giving Tuesday: We know about Black Friday. We know about Cyber Monday. We know they help stimulate our economy. But it felt like there was a missing gap. It felt like there was a moment to talk about philanthropy and giving.

MAN: For the arts.

MIKE CERRE: It’s called the giving season for a reason. December is typically the most important month for nonprofits all over the country.

Henry Timms started this online philanthropy event four years ago out of New York’s 92nd Street Y. Giving Tuesday is now celebrated in over 30 countries.

Last year, over 700,000 holiday shoppers pledged more than $110 million to their favorite charities, big and small.

HENRY TIMMS: One of the things we have always seen — and we see it more now with social media — is the kind of fluidity of giving. So people are able to form movements quickly around campaigns and causes they care about. I think we have already seen that post-election. We have seen lots of different groups that have seen spikes in giving.

ELIZABETH SUDA, Founder, Article 22: And each piece helps clear some of the 80 million bombs that haven’t yet exploded.

I think our jewelry has this multilayered impact, where the giver is consciously choosing something that has benefits for the people that make it.

We will still continue to use these hand tools.

MIKE CERRE: We first discovered Elizabeth Suda and her jewelry made from UXOs during President Obama’s state visit to Laos in September, when he pledged to nearly double the amount of money the U.S. spends each year cleaning up UXOs, unexploded ordnance, dropped during the Vietnam War.

ELIZABETH SUDA: This is actually a cluster bomb known as the pineapple, and it has aluminum fins here and then other aluminum components.

They are also able to make plane parts hammered down and put in the kiln, and you can actually get quite a few bracelets out of various pieces.

The pieces really started as conversation starters. The idea was to buy back the bombs and help clear unexploded ordnance, and give people an entry point into a conversation about what might otherwise be a forgotten part of history.

MIKE CERRE: More than four decades since the end of the Vietnam War, neighboring Laos is still littered with UXOs, unexploded ordnance, which continue to kill and maim civilians, mostly children, and even some of these jewelry makers, like this one, who lost an eye as a boy.

Proceeds from the sale of jewelry on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year goes to MAG, the Mines Advisory Group, to safely clear the artisans’ fields of these still dangerous legacies of war.

HENRY TIMMS: And the thing we have seen happen over and over again is the most creative campaigns are coming from some of the smallest institutions, right? what we often see is, those with the fewest resources actually thinking of some really smart ideas to try and think about how to approach Giving Tuesday in new ways.

MIKE CERRE: Giving Tuesday and recycling bombs into jewelry isn’t as much about anti-consumerism as it is about buying, making and selling stuff that benefits others and extends the gratification that comes from gift-giving beyond the holidays.

ELIZABETH SUDA: The Love Is a Bomb pieces, I believe, are $185.

People are shopping for holiday gifts that they’re going to give to somebody that they love or that they care about. And the jewelry that we offer is a symbol of that love, both in terms of it being a gift, but in terms of the story that it carries.

MIKE CERRE: Charlie Decker discovered the story and Article 22’s holiday booth in New York’s Union Square and bought a matching set of wedding rings made from bombs to give something back this holiday season.

CHARLEY DECKER, Holiday Shopper: Hoping that, you know, all the wounds get healed, and this is our little piece that we had to play in it.

MIKE CERRE: For the “PBS NewsHour,” Mike Cerre, reporting from New York.

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