Over the course of two weeks, our Founders (Harry Leibowitz and Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz) took a group of eager travelers to visit a few of our past Honorees in Cambodia and Laos. Though Harry and Kay have traveled across the globe, visiting Honorees from Argentina to Ukraine, one thing remains constant: the hope and happiness on the children’s faces. And whenever they arrive at an Honoree’s program, they always find them to be much more comprehensive and extensive than could have been imagined. These are real people doing really amazing work for children.
Along their journey, our Founders were reminded how crucial it is that we investigate every potential Honoree. They also learned about the surprising similiarities between two World of Children Honorees. Here’s a full recap of the fun, excitement and emotion of our Founders’ trip to Southeast Asia:
Phnom Penh is where our team first met up with Benoît Duchâteau-Arminjon, our 2012 Humanitarian Award Honoree. “Benito” (as he’s more commonly known) founded Krousar Thmey, a foundation for underprivileged children, in 1991. What began as a personal humanitarian trip to the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand has now become a strong organization catering to the needs of vulnerable children in Cambodia: the deaf, the blind, and the homeless. His shelters and schools are impeccably clean and full of children who have found hope and excitement for the future.
Our team got to visit one of the schools for the deaf and the blind and observed how each child is eagerly and tenaciously learning.
Benito took our group to visit his “Seeing In The Dark” exhibition, which is a fully blacked out immersion experience where the public is led by his blind students through a series of tasks in an obstacle course setting — in total darkness. The 20-minute experience involves individuals working in teams to navigate some of the daily challenges faced by blind children in this community. In the completely dark immersion space, participants are challenged to learn how to cross a very busy, simulated street with car and motorbike horns blaring at them. Our team members tried to buy products at the faux market (and failed in almost every attempt to get the product they wanted), receive change, and navigate out of a crowded market space.
“When we got out of the experience, we discovered we had been given a Coke instead of the orange juice we ordered, or a white shirt instead of the red one we asked for, and also had been short-changed with our cash purchase,” remarked Lynn Naylor, executive director. “These are just some of the daily difficulties the students at the Krousar Thmey school are trained to navigate and overcome.” The exhibition is helping to raise awareness about child blindness and was opened in 2013 with an inaugural visit by H.E. MAO Vuthy, Deputy Governor for the Siem Reap Province.
The team later said goodbye to Benito and hello to the children of another Honoree: the children at Angkor Hospital for Children, established by our 2014 Health Award Honoree, Kenro Izu, founder of Friends Without A Border. In 1993, during a photography trip, Kenro met children suffering from a variety of disabilities and illnesses. It was then that he tragically witnessed the death of a young girl who died because her family could not afford the $2 needed to treat her. This experience transformed Kenro and led to the establishment of the first (and now world-renowned) pediatric hospital for children in Cambodia.
Amazingly, the hospital treats a minimum of 500 children each day — completely free of charge.
The final leg of the journey took our team to Luang Prabang, Laos, where the brand new Lao Friends Hospital for Children recently opened its doors. The Founders wanted to get a personal look at how World of Children funding had been put to work to bring life-saving medical care to the children in this region. In short, they were astonished.
“The Lao Friends Hospital for Children has quickly become a life saver for many of the area’s most vulnerable children,” said Harry Leibowitz. “Parents line up with their children before dawn (and some sleep there over night) to get a chance to see a doctor or nurse because their child is so ill. The day we visited we saw about 60 children in all stages of being treated based on a triage system that makes sure that those most seriously ill get help first. What has been accomplished with so little money, comparatively speaking, is beyond amazing.”
Our Founders and the entire World of Children staff wish to thank all our supporters who make experiences like this happen. It’s because of you that Benito can teach a blind child how to read. It’s because of you that Kenro can save a child from a life-threatening illness. It’s because of people like you that make it possible each day for our Honorees to wake up and help a child in need. Thank you!
Your support is greatly appreciated. Please considering making a donation.
For #ThrowbackThursday during the trip, we remembered the Thursdays our Honorees were honored with their Awards and reflected on the great work they continue to do for children.