Children in My Lai, (Photo: My Lai Peace Park website)
Beginning with the My Lai Loan Fund, established January 10, 1994, the Madison Quakers have funded a series of projects in My Lai. They include the My Lai Primary Schools, My Lai Peace Park, medical supplies, and the Art Penpals project. Other projects funded by the Madison Quakers are loan funds in seventeen other villages (as of 2007), the construction of 'compassion houses', aid for ethnic minorities, the Sisters Meeting Sisters project and more.In 2008, Nanzan University historian Hiroshi Fujimoto, together with Mike Boehm, accompanied a group of Hibakusha to My Lai Peace Park for the 40th anniversary of My Lai where they gathered with the survivors of the My Lai massacre on March 16 in a plea for the end of weapons of mass destruction and peace in the world.
The objectives of these projects go beyond economic aid. For almost 40 years My Lai has been evoked only in the context of grief, anger and recrimination. Before beginning our first project in My Lai the Madison Quakers were resolved to break that chain of hatred and to find ways to re-humanize people who had been de-humanized; the Vietnamese people certainly, but also American veterans, anti-Vietnam war protestors and others. By breaking the chains of hatred which have kept us apart we begin to understand that we are more alike than we are different.
We have shown over the years that if we can sit down with humility and respect and a willingness to listen and learn from each other then anything is possible. If hope can rise from the ashes of My Lai it can arise anywhere.
The Madison Quakers have worked with the people of My Lai to build primary schools; to fund hundreds of My Lai women in small businesses, and to build simple "Compassion Houses" for families Agent Orange victims.
Mike Boehm's moving "Hope Rises from the Ashes of My Lai," the story of his journey from war in Vietnam to "homelessness," (a healing time of retreat), to working to heal trauma from the Vietnam War in himself, other veterans, and survivors in Vietnam and their descendants--shows how positive transformation in one human being has ripple effects to others and the larger world. In Boehm's life, this led to the flowering of healing and hope at My Lai Peace Park.