BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. - By all accounts Loddy Tolzmann is a Minnesotan. But ask her where home is and she won't hesitate to say Laos.
In 1980 her family resettled in Minnesota to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Tolzmann was just a year old. Now 33 years old she's become a leader of change for her homeland.
"What we don't realize is the mess that's left from the remnants of conflict and that's what we're trying to do is raise awareness," she said.
Helping her do that is Legacies of War, a non-profit, dedicated to raising awareness of unexploded bombs that cover 30 percent of Laos. The group is hosting a national tour of Voices from Laos: Clearing Bombs, Protecting lives. The goal is to share stories from survivors like Toummy Silamphan. He was just 8 years old when he was scavenging for food; instead he found a bomb and lost his left hand.
"I thought you know I want to die only because I thought okay my life is over," Silamphan said.
Silamphan is 26 years old now and helps other survivors of bomb explosions cope with trauma.
Tolzmann said it wasn't until 10 years ago when she returned to Laos for the first time that she understood how big the problem was.
"They can't do basic things like cooking. They can't walk. They can't farm. They can't have access to anything because all it takes is one misstep, one thrust of shovel and it detonates and explodes," she said.
For Tolzmann the fight gets personal.
"I think of people that have been left behind there. I easily could have been one of those people if I hadn't been one of the refugees that had the good fortune to come here," she said.
Tolzmann now has the fortune of leading a movement to make sure others have a chance.
Voices from Laos will make one final stop in Minneapolis on Monday April 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in the Cowles Auditorium.
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