I’m writing to tell you about my latest project. Angkor Wat is a poetry/photography book and spoken word album based on my travels in Cambodia. If you follow me online, you may have seen some of my photos from those trips last year as they happened. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. My book is a major project and is what sparked my second pilgrimage to the Far East, which I did by myself in December of 2016. In that sense, this is the biggest project I have ever undertaken. And even though the book and accompanying album are out now—and I hope you will read and listen to them—I am not done.
When I was in Cambodia, I met a monk named Sokhun. Sokhun and I had an immediate connection because he is a poet like me. He’s also into computers and teaches computer skills, as well as English, to several hundred students in a school he founded in the rural area where he grew up. Our common interests of poetry and technology helped things get off to a great start, and I now feel blessed to call him my friend.
One day, after I returned home from my travels, I asked Sokhun about the needs of his school and if there was any way I could help. You see, one of the things I learned in Cambodia is that the government does not provide free public education. Children have to pay fees to go to public school. This means many children see the short term benefits of begging for money from tourists over the long term benefits of going to school. You know as well as I that education is of fundamental importance to the future of all people, even here in the USA. But education is of particular significance in a developing nation like Cambodia, particularly when you consider the country’s recent history of war and genocide. Every single person running the government today had to start from scratch, with no one still alive who had the education much less the experience to run a functioning government. There’s a reason we call what happened in Cambodia Year Zero. That’s why making sure today’s young Cambodians have access to education is not only important but absolutely critical.
Sokhun’s school is called Cambodian Children’s Destiny. The organization is an NGO that he co-founded with other monks who also grew up in the area. The goal is for the school to eventually become self-sustaining, but in these early stages they still depend on outside funding, which primarily comes from people like you and me in the USA and Australia.
Right now CCD’s biggest need is shelter. While they do have classrooms, the walls are constructed of bamboo and are open to the elements. This becomes a problem during the rainy season of the year when the classrooms become uncontrollably wet. Can you imagine trying to have class while constant rain blows through the walls?
I asked Sokhun how much it would cost to construct classroom walls. He gave me this budget for the walls (as well as some other needs) for two classrooms:
I was floored. Less than 500 USD would create permanent and meaningful change in the lives of hundreds of students, students who are working hard to learn skills that will help them advance in life.
I thought carefully about that.
“You mean, for only 500 dollars I can impact the future of more children than were in my entire elementary school growing up? I can have a positive influence on the future of an entire developing nation?”
That’s when I realized, not only can I make this kind of difference, but you can too!
I decided that I would use my Angkor Wat project to do a fundraiser. I’m using Indiegogo’s Generosity platform to organize everything. I invite you to visit my page there via this link, where you can get my book, my album, and much more as gifts for your generous contribution:
After the fundraiser, I am going back to Cambodia later this year. I will visit the school and meet the children we are supporting. I may be just a humble poet and artist but I am determined to step forward and use my work to do whatever I can to help make the world a better place. I’m asking for your support to help me do that.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about the work I am doing. I hope that you will join me to help make the world a better place.
As they say in Cambodia: អរគុណ (arkoun/thank you).