A Broken Shoe


My favorite pair of sandals sort of fell apart while I was wearing them today. Fortunately I was traveling most of the day from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh so I didn’t need them much but I will say that whenever My shoes were within sight of people they definitely brought out the smiles.

My broken shoes made me think about some of the differences between the rich and the poor and between the developing world and just about every place else. In the developed world my shoes would be toast. Straps breaking and soles falling off are usually taken as clear indications that it is time to bite the bullet and buy a new pair. But not here.

Here in the developing world – here among the poor – it is simply time to break out the glue and find a needle that will sew through leather. You see – nothing ever goes to waste among the poor. They have recycling down to an art and understand how to get the most out of everything – including shoes. In this area the poor can teach us a lot. How much more could we save and then give if we would only choose to keep things longer and use them fully? So do I go shoe shopping tomorrow or go find some glue? So how do you say “Rubber Cement” in Khmer?

A Day in the Life of … a 16 year old girl

She is 16. At least that is what she says.  I suspect no one really knows for sure.  Her birthday has never been celebrated.  Not even one time.  She used to go to school but that was a long time ago.  She completed the second grade but then her father left and there was no more money for school.  She started working full time when she was 9.  She didn’t sleep well last night.  She sleeps on a thin mat on a wood floor under a net.  The net kept some of the mosquitos away last night but not all.  Mosquitos, and the gifts of sickness that they bring, are simply part of life when you live near the river but she doesn’t want to get sick again.  She got up on her own.  Her mother has been too sick to do much work in recent months.  It may be her heart.  It may be something worse.  But she doesn’t know for certain because her mother has never been to a doctor.  It is 6:00 a.m.  A little rice is all there is for breakfast but at least there is something today.  She looks at the bicycle.  It really isn’t much but it does help her do her work.  She wishes that it was hers and that she didn’t have to rent it.  The fifty cents a day rent for her is significant.

It’s time to go.  She knows that if she doesn’t hurry all the good stuff will be gone.  She takes her hat and a small bottle of water.  A girl, a bike, a hat, some water – the work day begins.  She heads to an area away from town.  Today she will cover several miles.  She is looking for cans.  Cans are always good.  They are light and easy to work with.  But bottles are good too.  They are just heavier and when they are broken they can cut through the bags or worse yet – her hands.  But today was difficult.  After almost 10 hours of searching all she had collected was a few pieces of cardboard and less than half of one bag full of cans. The buyer didn’t seem too interested in what she had.  He weighed it and then decided to pay 4,000 riel.  She thought it should have been more but what could she do.  4,000 riel is only $1 and that is a far cry less than her highest day.  Once she actually made $3.  Once.  Today, after paying the rent on the bicycle, there will only be fifty cents left.  That won’t buy much for dinner.  Not for three.

Tonight she is too tired to spend time with any friends.  Since there is no electricity at the house she won’t watch television or listen to the radio.  Since there is no water she won’t even get to take a bath.  But at 8:00 she will decide to call it a day and then plan to do it all again tomorrow.

But Monday is coming!

The story above is true.  It is the story of one of the girls chosen to be a part of the new class of culinary training center students.  Please pray for these girls as they embark upon a new journey.  And pray for CGI as we begin not only working with them but also with their families!

What if …

What do20120710-170607.jpg you think of this photo? I captures a moment but it says much more. To us it begs the question “What if?”. What if we had been born in another place? What if we did not have access to great hospital care and health insurance to cover the costs? What if this was my child and I was the one holing the IV?

We all know about the poor. Often we both empathize and condemn. Most of the time we simply move beyond them as quickly as we can. Stay here for a moment longer and look intently at the picture. What do you see? What do you feel? What can you do? What should you do? What is God asking you to do? What if this picture was of your family? What if …


El Dinosaurio (“The Dinosaur” for those who don’t read Spanish)

So I was reading an article in the South Korean newspaper on the final leg of my journey to Cambodia.  It began with the sentance “Cuando desperto, el dinosaurio todavia, estaba alli”.  Somehow it just a little unnerving to read a Spanish sentance in an English version of a Korean newspaper!  But alas it did catch my attention.  The article, written by Hugo Dixon, was all about the economic crisis in Spain and Italy and the steps being taken to support the euro.  And while I am not going to blog about the serious economic crisis in Europe and potential ramifications to the global poor I do want to comment on his leading sentance. Translated into English it simply reads … “Upon waking, the dinosaur was still there.”

After breakfast this morning and before my first meeting with the CGI Cambodian team I had an opportunity to quickly read through the English version of yesterday’s edition of the Phnom Penh Post. The article that caught my attention was entitled “Teenager Allegedly Sex Slave”.  The article follows the photo …


“Police have pulled a 15-year-old girl and her parents in for questioning over allegations the girl is being kept as a virtual sex slave in her families home in Banteay Meanchey province, where her parents had chained her legs to a bench to prevent her from escaping, police said yesterday.  The horrific allegations, which are being investigated by rights group Adhoc, were refuted by the girls parents, who claim their daughter is simply being locked inside the house for her own well-being.  Neighbor Khieve Bory told the Post yesterday he had visited the girl’s family last week and saw that she had been restrained in shackles.  “The girl told me that her parents forced her to work, to be a beggar and to have sex with foreign men since she was 13 years old.” he said, adding that the girl had allegedly been shackeled by her parents after her eighth attempt to flee and escape their abuse.  Her story was reported in a local newspaper that quoted her as saying her parents had forced her to have sex with French and Thai nationals and they has also trafficked her to Thailand’s Sakeo province, where she was kept to work as a prostitute.  Soum Chankea, provincial Adhoc coordinator, said yesterday that Adhoc was investigating after receiving information form villagers and seeing photos of the girl.  The girl’s father, Nuth Meoun, yesterday denied the acts described by his daughter, but admitted he was keeping her locked inside their house for her own security as she had been sneaking out at night to hang out with friends.  “We do not put the leg cuffs on her any more, we just lock her in the house and sleep with her every night,” Meoun told the Post.  “She just accused us, but we parents are angels to look after our children, so why would we force our beloved child to be a whore?”  he asked angrily before hanging up on the reporter.  Um Sophal, Poipet town police chief, said yesterday that his men are investigating the situation, but that he could confirm she was no longer chained up.  “We will keep investigating and watching the girl’s family because we are afraid the parents might do something bad to the girl after [police] left.” he said.

Please note that while these parents must be considered innocent until proven guilty there is much in this article to be concerned about.  This stuff does happen. It happens to the poor and the powerless every day.  Upon waking, I discovered again, that the dinosaur is still here!

Time Travel


For those who may read this blog who are planning to travel to Cambodia I will start out with some basic details. First it is always a good to prepare mentally. No matter what route you travel it just takes a long time to get to the other side of the world! Today the route goes to first to Dallas then to Seoul, South Korea and finally, on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. If everything goes as planned the total trip time should be 26 hours and 10 minutes. Things often don’t go as planned so it is good to flexible but as this trip begins I am both hopeful and optimistic!

One fact that you might find interesting. On the trip to Cambodia you actually need to account for some “time travel” because you move forward in time by 11 hours! I know that can mess with your mind. Actually this means that while I am leaving in the morning on Sunday and the trip is just a bit over one full day I will actually arrive at 10:05 PM on Monday night. The good news is that you should gain that time back on three return trip.

An interesting shot of our arrival into Dallas/Fort Worth.