ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings reflects on time spent in field with Roots of Peace

Sunday, May 7, 2017
EMBED <>More Videos

Though Heidi Kuhn never met Diana, she was inspired to carry on her work raising awareness about the destructive power of landmines.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News' Cheryl Jennings has been following the founders of Roots of Peace for nearly 15 years -- a couple who has risked their lives to save people and animals.

RELATED: Roots of Peace founders find inspiration in Princess Diana

They are the founder and president of a San Rafael-based charity, Roots of Peace. Heidi and Gary Kuhn founded the non-profit organization, which raises awareness and funds to remove landmines and restore the land for agriculture, 20 years ago in the basement of their home.

RELATED: Roots of Peace helping victims injured by landmines

In the two decades since, the U.S. government and the Afghan government both have recognized its success. And it's now working with an additional $16 million - added to the $46 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

PHOTOS: Roots of Peace works in Angola

1 of 12
Heidi Kuhn never met Diana, but she was inspired to carry on her work raising awareness about the destructive power of landmines. (KGO-TV)

I've traveled with Heidi and Gary to Afghanistan twice. The first trip in 2005 didn't feel as dangerous as the second in 2015, which required body armor, armed guards and armor plated vehicles everywhere we went in Kabul.

My husband and I also traveled with Roots of Peace to Vietnam, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to observe their work, which isn't easy.

RELATED: Bay Area nonprofit Roots of Peace helps remove landmines in Vietnam

Raising money for landmines is not a popular case, as the late Princess Diana learned.

But those who understand the importance of landmine removal know it can change a family's life, a village's prosperity and even change the economy of a war-torn nation.

The success of Roots of Peace over its many years is stunning, especially in Afghanistan. Afghan farmers participating in the Roots of Peace program saw income go from $600, which is poverty level, to between $6,000 and $10,000 a year. That raises their standard of living high enough to send their children to school, buy some sort of transportation and expand their homes.

As a result, these farmers don't need to rely on growing poppy crops for heroin because they can make more growing legitimate crops.

Roots of Peace also brought the first cold storage to Afghanistan, allowing for refrigeration to keep produce from spoiling. They taught farmers how to standardize the crop sizes, packaging and even linked them with traders in other countries.

The non-profit organization's latest report says $51 million of fruits and nuts have been exported to India and the United Arab Emirates. And they're not done yet. Vietnam's government has asked Roots of Peace to bring and expand their program throughout the country.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of a song by Jaime Kyle and Dave Jenkins for Roots of Peace.

Click here for more information on Roots of Peace.