Vietnam veterans helps others via Cambodia Corps
They were fierce fighters and loyal allies to the Americans fighting the war in Vietnam. They were the Montagnards, an indigenous people living in the highlands of northeast Cambodia.
What’s happened to them in the 35 plus years since the war ended? Thousands have been relocated to the United States but the 100,000 who remain on their tribal lands have been subjugated by their government and are looked down upon by Khmer society.
They are the poorest, least educated, least healthy people in Southeast Asia and their homelands are being seized by outsiders. The tropical forests that sustained their lifestyle have succumbed to land grabs by lowlanders who are serving the mining and agricultural interests of China, Vietnam and the western world.
But, they have not been forgotten. At least, not by Alpena native Max Lund. In 2007 he visited Cambodia and witnessed the work being done by an organization called Cambodia Corps Inc. (CCi) whose mission is to educate the poorest of the poor in the northeast section of that country and return them to their home provinces to serve their people.
In 2008 Lund became one of three directors of CCi. He spoke recently to a group of Association of Lifelong Learners about the desperate needs of the Montagnards and the way his organization is addressing those issues.
Education is the key. The local government provides elementary schooling in the small mountain villages but secondary schools are located in the cities which are 30 to 60 miles away. There is also the expense of books, clothing and food.
CCi chooses orphans and children of single parents, giving them a secondary education and a safe place to live. One of the organization’s first projects in the provincial capital of Sen Monourum was to put locks on the dormitory doors of the secondary school which was also housing the province’s orphans. CCi went on to install toilets, drill a well for safe drinking water, plant a garden, build a reservoir for doing laundry, and buy a tuc-tuc for transportation.
Students who complete a secondary education are fluent in Kmer and English in addition to their village dialect. After passing an exit exam, they are offered the chance of a college education if they commit to two years of service in their communities for each year of college.
To date, 30 students have earned college degrees in civil engineering, veterinary medicine, rural development and agriculture, English, mathematics, banking and finance, economics, medicine, business management, animal health production, law, public administration, electrical engineering, IT networking, community development and teachers education. Two are currently in medical school.
The students are enthusiastic about the CCi program, seeing it as a ticket to a good life and a chance to help preserve their native culture. They are unified by pressures from the outside that seek to destroy them. They’ve seen how the Communists have treated the Montagnards in Vietnam, stealing their land and driving them out.
Cambodia Corps is a non-profit organization of Vietnam veterans which uses 95 cents of every donated dollar for its students. Its officers and directors are not compensated and the Cambodian manager receives a salary of $475 a month.
It takes an average of $1,600 a year to put a student through college in the city of Phnom Penh. Anyone interested in joining the effort to educate these young Cambodians who seek to protect their rights and preserve their lands can send a donation to founding member Thomas M. Daniels III – president/chairman, Cambodia Corps, Inc., 915 Goebel Ave., Savannah, GA 31404. He may also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can choose to sponsor a student, contribute a stated amount on a monthly basis or make a one-time donation.
CCi’s web site is www.cambodiacorps.org <www.cambodiacorps.org. To obtain more information locally, contact Lund at 356-4043 or email@example.com.