Many people ask why we've chosen Cambodia for the focus of our work. Here are some of the reasons:
B4B Co-Founder, Lee Chandler, gives his perspective:
B4B Champion, Kara Cunningham, sheds more light on the subject:
Of all places, WHY ARE WE WORKING IN CAMBODIA? A number of people have asked me this, so if you've got the attention span for a couple paragraphs, I will do my best to explain.
In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge (communists) did their best to destroy Cambodia. Their goal was to indoctrinate everyone, and those who didn't conform were killed. Over the course of four years, they killed almost 3 million of their own people -- pretty much everyone that could think, had an education, or ran a business. They killed most teachers, doctors, and business people. At one point, there were only 45 doctors for 7 million people because the Khmer Rouge had killed them all. Business and industry were destroyed. Four years and 2.7+ million tons of bombs later, the Khmer Rouge were finally driven out, but the country has been reeling ever since.
For more historical insight, check out the autobiographical film "First They Killed My Father," available on Netflix, or "The Killing Fields."
Thanks to the Khmer Rouge, there is a generation of people here who are either disfigured, had their limbs blown off, or are handicapped in some way. This country was actually relatively prosperous before the war. I've learned that in 1969, 80% of farmers owned their land, and the economy was growing 5% a year. But since the Khmer Rouge killed off everyone with an education or business, and destroyed all property records, the country's economic infrastructure, education system, and government, etc... have been a mess ever since.
Cambodia has never recovered -- there are just post-war generations that have no idea why their prospects are so limited. There are so many people, so many children, born into an implacable no-win situation with no hope or prospects. The poverty is grinding.
So this is why Kent and Lee have chosen to work here among the poorest of the poorest countries in Asia. They founded Bracelets4Buildings in honour of their friend Art Steinberg, who originally brought Cambodia's plight to their attention through his own work. Neither founder makes any kind of a salary or financial benefit from this.
From my own personal experience, I've been amazed at the resilience and generosity of the Cambodian people. Regardless of the trauma they've sustained, or the hardships they've endured, their principle impulse is to share what little they have with friends and neighbours. They always have a smile for strangers, and they lend a patient, helping hand whenever they can.
Obviously, there is need everywhere, near and far, locally and abroad. It can feel overwhelming, and people often respond with a kind of paralysis. I know, I've been there. I say just pick a corner in the world, somewhere, anywhere, even if it is just in your backyard, and make a difference. It doesn't even have to be money - just do something for someone who needs it, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially, whatever. Get the ball rolling. Quit making excuses. Just start somewhere, anywhere... then notice what it'll do to your own life too.
Love to you all,