Dan Rogers: Hope in Cambodia
Dan Rogers, Board Chair Several Compassionate Eye Foundation board members and a photographer spent late December and early January traveling in Cambodia, the site of many of our health and education projects. Dan Rogers, board chair, shares his thoughts on the journey:
One of the great joys of being on the Board of Directors of Compassionate Eye Foundation is having the opportunity to travel to other countries and see how projects we have funded are making a difference. This year’s trip was to Cambodia.
Cambodia is a complicated country. Thirty years of war, bombings, and a horrific genocide have had a terrible impact on the country and the people who live there. In some ways, Cambodia is in recovery mode and in other ways it is still struggling. It’s hard to not become aware of the large scale corruption and inequity in the country when looking at projects and programs to potentially fund. The government is filled with millionaires and billionaires while most people can’t afford basic health care and students pay 25 cents a day to go to school because the administrative staff and teachers are so poorly paid (an average $80-$100 a month). However, good news exists in the hard work and generosity of many ordinary Khmer, and the work being done by so many organizations like Kids International Development Society (KIDS), supported by groups like Compassionate Eye.
If you only go to Siem Reap in Cambodia (and many visitors do, simply to stay in a foreign owned hotel and visit Angkor Wat) it is a bit like going to Las Vegas to understand America. The surface of Siem Reap is not real but right below the surface it's all there: the poverty and lack of any social safety net except for what NGOs provide; the children selling t-shirts or working in rice fields instead of going to school.
But there are great stories to share and there are the smiles of people who seemingly have little reason to. The kids who go to school love it! It is an escape from the toil of planting a rice field or working in the brutal brick yards. It is a chance for students to learn, do art, sing, and maybe a chance to change their future. Literacy is so important to making a better life and getting a better job, which in turn enables an individual to help a sister or nephew, and so on.
One day we visited children in a program called Smart Kids, funded by KIDS. These children receive uniforms and bicycles so they can travel the 13 kilometres to high school each day. One girl we spoke with lived with her disabled father and her three younger siblings (her mother had died) in a shack on the side of the road. Another lived with her mother in the corner of a brick factory. This program enables these children and gives them a chance. We hope to help KIDS expand this program.
As its name implies, KIDS focuses on kids. We met so many wonderful children in schools and got to know a group at a girls’ home. Such lovely kids with often very difficult backgrounds, but now with a lot of hope because they are in a safe place and go to school. And there are tens and hundreds and thousands more that need the same chance. Groups like KIDS are giving some that chance. Compassionate Eye Foundation is proud to support them–and as a Compassionate Eye supporter, you should be proud too!