Since my family’s escape our war-torn motherland in 1979, my father returned for the first in June 1992, before the U.N. sponsored elections, which was estimated to have cost around three billion dollars.
Seeing the people and country firsthand ultimately caused my father further heartache and depression, in addition to his post-traumatic stress disorder. The country and society were badly shattered. After many years of civil warfare and foreign occupation, the people became traumatized, poor, and fearful. His heart ached at the sight of children, adults, elders, and disabled people begging for food on every street corner.
He saw a one-legged beggar violently pushed into the street by the owner of a business establishment. My father helped him up as his fellow traveler asked the pusher, “Why are you treating a fellow human being like this?”
He later saw a United Nations soldier pushing a woman along with his foot and purposely knocking down the battered fried bananas she was selling in front of the hotel he was guarding. My father made small talk with her and gave her five dollars, persuading her to sell her food somewhere else so as not to let this heartless man demean her that way.
At a noodle shop where my father was eating, a man begged for his leftovers, but instead, he ordered a full bowl for him. On the street, he saw children in tattered clothes salivating at the sight of a woman selling Khmer vermicelli noodles and herbal sauce. My father bought all of the woman’s food and told the children to go home and grab their containers. They happily ran home and came back with their pots and pans. To some beggars, he offered money.
Dad knew what he had done brought only temporary relief; hence, he felt utterly depressed. The elections were to be held the next year—something he should have felt positive about—but having seen how Cambodian factions, soldiers, and employees of the United Nations bullied and threatened people, he knew they were not helping to make things much better. He came back home to the United States with a collage of conflicting emotions.
I, too, returned to Cambodia for the first time in 2002. I saw a one-legged soldier begging tourists for money while he strapped his child to his back. Many boys and girls flocked over to me to be my tour guides and asked for a few hundred riels in return. I saw a man with no legs prostrating himself on a filthy, smelly, wet, garbage infested ground as he begged customers and sellers alike for food to eat. A man with half arms ran up to me to beg for money. A toddler who could barely speak ran up to me to beg for one hundred riels. Everywhere I went I saw maimed Khmers begging for food and money to survive. I felt helpless and hopeless. I often thought about what I needed to do to help these people to help themselves. My own financial difficulty deterred me from contributing much.
Seeing what Kids at Risk Cambodia does for Khmer people raises my spirit and I too, want to contribute to its amazing work by raising funds from the proceeds of my book called The Governor’s Daughter: The Scribes of Brahmadhan, to help young Khmer children and their families get nutritional meals, housing, and medical assistance.
According to Norm Schriever, writer of The Huffington Post, Kids at Risk Cambodia is named as one of the “7 Charities Still Doing Great Work in Cambodia.”
Whether through social media or personal encounters, seeing children at risk of starvation, suffering, and dying, its staff would go and search for them to help with whatever they need: food, shelter, education, and medical attention.
Please click on this link to download a copy of The Governor’s Daughter: The Scribes of Brahmadhan. All of its proceeds for the month of July will go to this wonderful organization.
By buying The Governor’s Daughter: The Scribes of Brahmadhan, you are not only giving me a chance to entertain you with my debut novella, but you are helping to maintain the good work of Bart Belanger’s Kids at Risk Cambodia.
May you always be blessed with great health and wealth! Thank you.