If you didn't know, I'm a massive fan of the book, Bones That Float, by Kari Grady Grossman. What's it about you ask, well - Family, America, and the Khmer Rouge interweave the journey of a mother’s search for truth with the lives of two Cambodians—one who escaped the Khmer Rouge’s bloody reign and one who did not. Adopting one child leads to building a school, and a mission to promote education in Cambodia. Bones That Float—a Cambodian phrase for the sacred that rises above the suffering—is a heartbreaking tale of hope. That just about sums it up nicely. Kari and her family will be back over to Cambodia around Christmas time to continue their determined drive to help the children at the Grady Grossman School in the village of Chrauk Tiek, way off the beaten track in the Southern Cardamom Mountain region. I was so pleased to read in her blog recently that Kari met up with another of my favourite people on the planet, Loung Ung. I've shamelessly whipped out her blog entry and reposted it here, for you all to read and consider joining Kari's quest.
Sometimes the Universe rewards you for staying true to your calling.
On Saturday I not only met my personal hero, I shared a podium with her. Loung Ung is the international bestselling author of First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child, and a passionate peace activist. She is now also a supporter of The Grady Grossman School in Cambodia.
She went first, delivering a heart wrenching speech about her life’s journey from childhood under the Khmer Rouge, to American refugee, and back to Cambodia as an activist for a land mine free world. Over 150 teachers from International Baccalaureate schools in the Rocky Mountain region listened with rapt attention, their minds churning with desire to communicate these events to their students, K-12. The theme of the Denver, Colorado conference was Awareness to Action. Loung spoke to the Awareness part, and I was there to inspire Action.
Seven years ago, while waiting to adopt our son, I bought 20 copies of First They Killed My Father, and sent them to every member of our family for Christmas. Four months later, as I cradled a Cambodian baby boy in my arms, I wanted a book about the conditions in today’s Cambodia to explain why my son was a war orphan - 25 years after the war! There was no such book, and that is why I wrote Bones That Float; it remains the only narrative book out there to connect Cambodia’s history with Cambodia’s present.
It was amazing to listen as Loung’s journey reached the exact same conclusion that mine has, Cambodia needs sustainable lives and teacher support to help rural communities heal the many ills that continue to plague the rebuilding of society to this day. After showing the video of our school, I explained my vision of sustainable, school-based economic development, building a solid foundation of primary education at the grassroots level, partnered with Life Skills & Vocational training, to empower local communities with control over their educational future.
When I finished my speech, Luong gave me thumbs up and a big smile. She asked how she could help me. With her notoriety taking our awareness message to a wide audience, and mine taking our action message deep, I think we can have a powerful effect.
I am going to ask Loung to join me for the world’s largest online book discussion on April 17, 2008. A day of remorse and healing in recognition of the day the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, in the year that they are finally being held accountable for it. I will call for volunteers to join our school supporting network. Through building relationships and listening to local communities, our partners will find a way for every school to become income-generating and self-supporting in 3 to 5 years. This is a people to people endeavor and our job is to work ourselves out of a job, to usher each school to its own, unique sustainability. Who will join us?