A Passion for Change

This evening my organization, Clear Path International, was an invited guest of the McKnight Foundation at a dinner party for non-governmental organizations funded by McKnight and working in Cambodia. The room was filled with so many people working in their passions, that it is hard to remember which of my conversations with which program director was more inspiring. The director of medical education at the Angkor Hospital for Children? The program director of World Education? The country director of Cambodia Family Development Services? These good (and smart as hell) people are largely westerners whose passions (and an admitted hunger for adventure) have led them to a life well beyond their borders. All of us this evening were charged up by each other's commitment to our causes.

I am regularly inspired most, though, by my dear friend and colleague, Doeur Sarath. Executive Director of Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development (CVCD), Sarath (SAR-ROT) was four years old when he last saw his father, chained to a horse cart to be hauled off and killed by the Khmer Rouge. Sarath himself was a soldier as soon as he was strong enough to carry a gun.

Today, Sarath's army is a volunteer force of teachers in much needed literacy programs and vocational skills training courses in Phnom Penh and well into the rural reaches of Cambodia. They currently have classes teaching over 600 people of all ages how to read and write and have assisted 150 landmine survivors in adapting new skills after their accidents (yesterday I was recruited for a brief English class, my 'students' included three saffron robed Buddhist monks).

Sarath is well aware of the challenges facing Cambodians, but his eyes light up when he tells me of his program ideas and new, creative sources of funding ... just one example is CVCD, in partnership with my organization, is selling rice ... currently 30 tons a month... and putting the profits back into our joint programs to help build sustainability.

Tom often says passion trumps ambition; my friend Sarath has both in spades.