Saturday, May 15, 2010

Final post from Cambodia

Dear readers,

I hope you’ll forgive the delay – we were lucky enough to get to see the mysterious, ancient Khmer temples at Angkor Wat (and dance in the street!)for a few days, a bit of distraction from city life. We’ve now crossed the border into Thailand, pitching camp in steamy Bangkok. This will probably be my final blogpost, as I’m flying home to continue developing the Nicaragua and Cambodia books. Kevin will take the blog-reigns as he travels to Bangladesh for a Ganges River dolphin workshop (on a boat!), Tanzania, DR Congo, and Sudan. Honestly, I’m pretty excited to go from writer to reader.

The end of our week-long Cambodia writing class brought with it some pretty inspiring descriptions of dreams and aspirations from the ladies in our workshop. A couple pages of the Cambodia book will be dedicated to these “stories behind the stories”, like with the excerpt on the three sisters from our class in San Isidro, Nicaragua. This group of women in Phnom Penh are natural role models of empowerment and hope, something well worth sharing with our young American readers.

What does the feisty leader of the 2010 Voices For Change group, a survivor and fighter, aspire to? She wants to become a lawyer, fighting sex trafficking from a political and legal standpoint. Another writer in our group plans on learning modern farming techniques and starting a farm and small resort in the country, employing survivors of trafficking and sharing farming techniques with rural families so that they can learn to better support themselves. Another woman hopes that she can open a tailoring shop, spending a few days of the week there and a few days continuing her outreach work with trafficking victims. Another will open a restaurant in Phnom Penh, training victims of trafficking cooking and restaurant management skills. Talk about a move from victimhood to empowerment, from helplessness to outreach and action.

There is so much we can learn from these women. Humor and the human spirit can surmount such indescribable tragedies. Many of these girls were downright comedians - some in a quiet way, others in a mischievous way. They support each other, hug each other, live together, learn together. Their ethic is one of study and perseverance. Even those that had only studied English for 3 months were already holding conversations with us, and said that they didn’t have much time to rest on the weekend because of English and Khmer reading homework. And now they're writing books to be published in America. Feeling lazy? Not anymore.

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