AU student leads an alternative break to post-war Vietnam.
By Mike Stankiewicz
The hot Southeast Asian sun beats down on him as he makes the several miles long journey to a remote village in south Vietnam. He arrives at a dilapidated hospital and hears the stories from those left disfigured and crippled decades ago from herbicidal warfare that his country dropped on innocent civilians.
This was an average day abroad for Chris Diamond, 23, who along another undergraduate from American University, led a group of a dozen students last December to Vietnam to learn about the destructive powers of war and its economic and social consequences.
“Many people affected by the Vietnam conflict were not even alive during the war,” said Diamond. “Children grow up eating food invested with Agent Orange and other defoliants which have a disastrous effect on their health.”
Diamond, originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, is a senior studying Political Science and Journalism and is passionate about social justice and human rights issues. He currently works as a policy intern at the U.S. House of Representatives for the Office of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.
“Working at the Capitol is giving me good names and connections for I eventually try to make a career in international social justice,” said Diamond.
Diamond is no strange to traveling abroad, nor is this his first time in Vietnam, he visited the south eastern country in 2013 as a study abroad student.
“It was during that trip that I opened my eyes to what some of the atrocities people in war torn countries face,” said Diamond, “I always said I would go back if I could.”
Last year Diamond was a part of another alternative break. He traveled to Haiti to help locals recover from the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 160,000 and displaced over 1.5 million Haitians.
Diamond admits that the United States has not fully acknowledged the ethical problems of the Vietnam conflict and does not attempt to clean up the chemical, economical and medical mess left in the third world country. He hopes that next time, the U.S. will think about the consequences of war before entering an international conflict.
“War has caused an astronomical amount of damage to a country that was already at the poverty level,” said Diamond, “It is always a problem that people only care about after a conflict, not during.”