Woodstown Quakers Crank Up the Volume for Humanitarian Demining

Giving, Peace & Social Concerns, Volunteering, Worship and Ministry

With the help of his fellow Quakers, Jack Mahon of Elmer, New Jersey, has dedicated the last ten years to sending magnetic locators to poor and struggling communities throughout the world. The locators, a product of Schonstedt Instrument Company, can detect the presence of landmines and other unexploded weaponry left behind in a warzone. Once locals are trained to use them they are literal lifesavers, accurately identifying deadly munitions which often kill and maim both children and adults. “While the mines do impact combatants, most casualties are civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers” said Mahon.

To date, Mahon and the Quakers at Woodstown Friends Meeting have helped send 124 locators to more than twenty countries as far away as Libya and Azerbaijan. This is made possible by the special ‘Humanitarian Demining’ program of Schonstedt which matches each locator for which funds are raised and takes care of transportation. Mahon and his cadre of Quakers are responsible for over a fifth of all locators, costing $1041 each, that Schonstedt sends out through their program. Their 18th century meetinghouse has become a vibrant center for collecting and forwarding donations of all sizes.

How this small group of South Jersey Quakers has managed such a large feat is a lesson in creativity and dedication. “We solicit private donations from our members and at community events, but we’ve also started a concert series that we use to bring education and awareness about our humanitarian demining efforts,” said Mahon. Called Music at Friends, the series takes place at the Woodstown Friends meetinghouse and features local artists in genres like rock, pop, jazz and classical. Its popularity has been increasing and it now hosts artists from Philadelphia and beyond.

Woodstown Friends Meeting’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In April of 2016, the Woodstown Quakers were summoned to Washington DC where the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs awarded them a certificate of appreciation. According to the certificate, they had made “a direct contribution to the dramatic reduction in civilian deaths and injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance.” The federal department went on to say that “Woodstown Monthly Meeting is helping farmers, schoolchildren, and other innocent civilians worldwide to walk the Earth in safety.”

Quakers are one of the traditional peace churches and their post-war efforts during World War 2 won them a Nobel Peace Prize. Mahon is proud to have contributed to this legacy. “People might expect Quakers to be involved with something like this, but it is vital that all nations that engage in war come to see humanitarian demining as their responsibility,” said Mahon.

Donations for Woodstown Friends Meeting’s humanitarian demining efforts can be made through WoodstownFriends.org, where you can also find a list of upcoming concerts in the Music at Friends series.