Unusual summer for BBA senior

DORSET - To see tragedies on the news or to hear about it second-hand is one thing, but to actually travel to another country and witness a hardship is another. Ryder Hathaway, senior at Burr and Burton Academy, spent a month and a half in Vietnam this summer interning with Clear Path International, assisting victims of war in post-conflict zones, and now has a face to put to the stories.

Ryder's father, James Hathaway, founded Clear Path International (CPI) in 2000 with three others - his ex-wife Martha Hathaway, Kristen Leadem, and Imbert Matthee.

CPI does not actively clear undetonated explosives, but instead focuses its efforts on getting aid to those who have been affected by the weapons. Their funding brings both short-term and long-term treatment to the survivors as well as providing prosthetics and other tools for people who have been affected.

"This was my fifth time over there," said Ryder Hathaway. "The first time I was three years old. It's been in my blood... I wanted to go back and do more."

Hathaway explained that when he was younger, he didn't entirely understand what was happening and he was too young to help out. Now, however, he was able to go without the accompaniment of his parents and actually spend time working with the survivors.

Hathaway spent his internship with other members of CPI, as well as Mines Advisory Group (MAG). While he was mostly interacting with those CPI has helped, or doing desk work, he was able to join MAG on two site tours while he was there. The first time, he traveled with two other people with the group and it was the first site tour and clearance mission he had seen.

The second trip, however, he was joined by Jonathan Goldsmith, more commonly known as The Most Interesting Man in the World.

"He joined CPI just before I left for the trip," Hathaway said. "His fame definitely helped bring light to the issue... he enjoyed our trip and I think he does care a lot about the issue, and he cares about Clear Path."

After Goldsmith moved to Vermont, he struck up a friendship with James Hathaway. When the topic of CPI came up between the two, Goldsmith was eager to not only join the group, but to also join them on a trip.

Hathaway filmed a short video during that trip of Goldsmith and members of MAG describing the explosives they found that day, and subsequently disarming them. The video also features Goldsmith meeting people, including children, who have been affected by the weapons, and even playing catch with a few children.

The video also features Goldsmith meeting people, including children, who have been affected by the weapons, and even playing catch with a few children.

The video, which was also edited by Hathaway in just about a day, was a part of a feature on the web site Reddit called "Ask Me Anything," where people can post in a form-style and invite other users to ask them anything they want. The video was posted to Reddit, and in the first two days it brought about $20,000 in donations from its nearly half a million views. Now, it sits at just under a million views.

"It showed the public is willing to care," Hathaway said. "We definitely owned the Internet for a day."

During the month and a half that he was working with CPI, Hathaway was able to meet with the people whose lives had been affected by these undetonated explosives; these same people also had their lives subsequently affected by the efforts of CPI.

He told the story of a nine-year-old boy names Ho Van Thoa who discovered a white phosphorous trigger while searching for scrap metal to exchange for candy. Thoa live in the Da Krong district of Quang Tri, adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

"His whole body was enflamed," Hathaway said. "And in the process he had broken his arm. This happened nine days before I got there, and I met him three days into my trip... it was a wakeup call of sorts. It's completely different when you see it in real life."

Hathaway is a senior at BBA, and while he does not yet have a set answer to the infamous question of plans after high school, he said that he would not hesitate to go back to Vietnam to work with CPI.

"After this trip I've definitely considered... this kind of life much more," Hathaway said. "It's difficult, it's crazy, it's hectic, but it's something incredible. You're not just sitting in an office... you're out there making a difference. Clear Path has helped a few thousand people so far... that's amazing to me. To be able to be there and just help someone, I want to be part of something like that."

CPI is still taking donations through its web site, cpi.org/joinus. The video can also be found on that page.


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