Archive for the 'Charity' Category


A Twisted Tongue, by Veija Kusama-Morris

Words. Language. Broken down into definition and constructed into meaning. The potential to synthesize the world or devastate it. Persuasion. Capacity. Propaganda. The words an individual believes they have the aptitude to employ, what they have a right to say. Tradition’s repugnant clash with ‘success,’ littering Cambodia with the remnants of its discord. Here are your options. We have to be realistic. This is what your life will look like.

New Hope is a Cambodian NGO located in the Mondul Bai district within Siem Reap province. They frame themselves as a ‘grass roots’ organization striving to provide ‘free education for all,’ particularly the children of a ‘broken community of army families, sex workers, and displaced parents.’ Logistically, the organization provides schooling for approximately 600 children in various disciplines, including computer skills, English, math, sex education, and sewing. Despite a newly inaugurated project to open a public school in partnership with the national curriculum, New Hope’s educational methodology contains no instruction in Khmer, only English. Their defense of this strategy is fair, albeit disheartening. The paramount concern for these students post-graduation is to gain steady employment and earn a livable wage, in Siem Reap that is predominantly associated with tourism. In the pervasive interlocking of education and money, New Hope was left with a choice and English proved victorious. Cloaked in logic and rationality, New Hope’s decision illuminates a conditioned and extensively inveterate dynamic. As the languages of success and tourism merge into synonymy, the lens through which the youth of Cambodia are prompted to view their own potential becomes increasingly opaque. The terminologies surrounding their futures blend into uniformity, and consequently manageability.

In her work The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, author Tania Murray Li writes that structures often move to change emotions towards an ‘issue’ rather than targeting the source itself. In the same vein, by changing the landscape of language, various apparatuses are constructing the value of these people into acquiescent niches. By utilizing the ideals of self-determination and the promise of individual success, the State is given the opportunity to set the terms of achievement, to restrict the capacity of its population.

It’s not difficult to ascertain why this dynamic occurs. During the three weeks I’ve spent in Cambodia, I’ve observed abundant illustrations of grace, perseverance, intelligence, kindness and ambition, and for a government that appears to desire passive conformity, all of these serve as a threat. The truth of the individuals we encounter is mauled by a surging tongue of dominance. The frequent utterances of reality, slums, poor, disadvantaged, modernity, and tourism have crowded my ears since arriving in Cambodia. This onslaught is contrasted by the fact that I’ve heard the word ‘dream’ three times. The youth of Cambodia are not a cause, they are not to be lost or found. They are present, they are living, and they are capable. In a world willing to paint them as the residue of war, it is these people that have the opportunity to change the face of this nation.


BLOOD IS MONEY, by Veija Kusama-Morris

“This isn’t politics. This is saving lives. We ask that you donate blood, money, or both”

The room is kept frigidly tempered. Shocking your system into recapitulating its comprehension of the space you occupy. Ensuring that your mind registers the fact that the world you are entering is vastly different from that which you retreat. As your skin adjusts you are physically prompted to open your eyes and stretch your limbs, your body craving homeostasis. The architecture is dominated by clean lines and unassuming forms. Ornament is distracting and distractions hinder results. Nothing can impede why you are here, why he is here, and how pivotal your symbiosis could be.

He is Beat Richner, a Swiss doctor and the current head of Kantha Bopha, Cambodia’s largest children’s hospital. The event is a weekly concert during which Richner and his cello advocate for the audience’s donations, for their participation in intervening on behalf of the children of Cambodia. As Richner tallies the citizenship of his congregation, identifying various constituents of the western world, he fails to implore if any Cambodians are present. Though meticulously dredged in humorous banter, his intentions are made clear, as his program appears increasingly rehearsed. Through a culmination of imposing statistics, history, and Bach, Richner coaxes the western ego into relinquishing that which it has been wired to bequeath. He seems to comprehend that his targeted audience not only wants, but needs, to give. They need only for someone to ask, a role Richner appears proficient in executing. His consistent claim that this issue is devoid of politics strives to decontextualize his cause, painting it in the black and white contrasts of humanity, rendering the grey invisible. Regardless of tactic, his work in providing medical care for a considerable portion of Cambodia’s youth can be difficult to argue with and there are many commendable aspects of his efforts.

However, Richner’s program highlights key aspects that amalgamate within the psyche of a donor. “Helping” these bodies is not enough, consumption is the goal. Congruous to an idea presented by author bell hooks, donors are looking to consume the other, smothering them with their infatuation, fully participating in a cannibalistic envelopment of the third world. Perceiving the vanquishment of colonialism, the individual is struck with an overwhelming need to atone for the sins of their manufactured history. This is the “white man’s burden,” a parasite of kindness. To donate that which might drench the world in the altruism of the west. The synonymous value of blood and money serves as disturbingly succinct representation of global interaction, a realistic equation for the guidelines of international relations. Our very presence in this hall links to the position our world expects us to play. Despite personal convictions, our identities are irrevocably linked to the country, the education, and the institutions that have made our entrance into this space possible. The faces present in this hall of humanitarian seduction are all integral members of a global network of intervention. Ignorant of true strength, the powers that be have dubbed us the faces of change. That is why we are sitting in this auditorium, in this hospital, in this city, in this country. We are “the chosen ones.”

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