Keeping the peace

Darrell Cole
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Amherstonian presented Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal

AMHERST - Working in war-ravaged Kosovo, Wanda Atwell has seen things that would make most people cringe.

Keeping the peace

AMHERST - Working in war-ravaged Kosovo, Wanda Atwell has seen things that would make most people cringe.

A parole officer with the Correctional Service of Canada working out of Dorchester, N.B., the Amherst resident returned two weeks ago from her second tour of duty in the former Yugoslav republic where she worked with the United Nations in rebuilding the country's prison system that was destroyed during years of civil war ethnic Serbs and Kosovars.

"You have to have a real sense of adventure," Atwell said of her decision to go to Kosovo the first time in February 2002. "I remember stepping off the plane and wondering what the heck am I doing here? The runway was lined with tanks and troops and everywhere you looked was rubble of destroyed buildings. It was complete devastation."

Atwell, who went back to Kosovo in March for another six-month tour, accepted her Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal from Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey on Tuesday. Her experiences in Kosovo have given her a greater appreciation of what it means to be Canadian and the things we take for granted. It's a message she has passed on to her two children.

"We take a lot for granted in this country. We have fresh air, clean cities and towns and we have trees. We have a lifestyle and enjoy freedoms that people, even in developed countries, would give anything to have," she said. "People don't realize how good we have it until you go away."

Many of Kosovo's prisons and detention centres were destroyed by the 1999 NATO bombing campaign and three-year civil war while those that remained still had the scars of the atrocities committed there, including bodies left where they were murdered.

The United Nations approached the Canadian government to help restore the justice system through the European Agency for Reconstruction. Atwell said the CSC and the Canadian corrections system are highly regarded globally making it the natural choice to help restore order.

Casey said it's significant that Atwell received the peacekeeping medal because corrections plays a prominent role in the area with the prisons in Springhill, Truro and Dorchester.

"We have so many corrections workers here and for Wanda to be doing this and setting an example is to be commended," Casey said. "It shows how Canadians are making a huge difference around the world."

Organizations: Correctional Service of Canada, United Nations, Canadian Peacekeeping Service NATO European Agency for Reconstruction

Geographic location: Kosovo, AMHERST, Dorchester Springhill

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