Sunday, August 19, 2007

Buy a brick to build the theater

Last Thursday night, I attended a fund-raising event at The Monkey and The Rat store in Old Town. The event was to raise funds to build a permanent theater in rural Cambodia for The Reasmey Angkor Bassac Theatre Troupe, which is the last remaining traveling theater in Cambodia. The atrocities brought on the people of Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 - 1979 also nearly obliterated the cultural life of these wonderful Southeast Asian people.

Initiated by the Portland-based actress and philanthropist, Helena de Crespo, the fund-raising event was both fun and instructive. My good friend Kilong Ung was the master of ceremonies and his personal involvement with Cambodian causes (he is the president of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon) shined through in his inspiring introductions and encouraging words. The highlight of the night was the dancing of Cambodian teenagers who performed the Coconut Dance, a traditional Khmer dance.

After their show, the dancers were individually introduced to the audience and it was then that I learned how much the Cambodian community is thriving in Oregon. One student is headed to Stanford University in the fall to begin college and another to Columbia University. They are all involved in either sports or music programs as well. When I talked to one of the students, Sidney, who had been selected as a member of the Caddy program through his involvement in The First Tee golf program for youth, I met a confident young man who is thinking positively about his future.

Helene de Crespo needs to raise $10,000. to build the theater. At the event, each person that contributed at least $10. will have their name displayed in both English and Khmer on the legacy wall within the theater. Donations are being handled through Village Focus International, a non-profit 501c3 organization.

Here are some pictures from the evening:

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