The Grandeur of Angkor
The Kingdom of Cambodia, site of the magnificent temples of Angkor holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the first countries I visited in Asia during the early 1990s and it was at Angkor where a friendship began that would ultimately inspire me to return to the country many times in the years to come to be with the children of Cambodia.
There was a time in Cambodia, before the Internet, when fax machines had just become fashionable and when the Grand Hotel, the only hotel appropriate for Western visitors, was finally getting ready for renovation. Few travelers were visiting Angkor and the ruins, which sat in an eerie silence just outside the sleepy little town of Siem Reap. One can imagine how the ruins of Angkor provided a vast playground for the children. As every seasoned traveler knows, it is a moving scene to watch the innocent and enthusiastic play of children with simple toys such as sticks, empty water bottles and an old soccer ball. It cannot help but bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.
It was during this time when I was approached by a well-known photographer, Kenro Izu, asking for my help in organizing his first trip to Cambodia, which would mark the beginning of a beautiful photography collection and several books featuring the early days of Angkor. While out on location amidst the ruins, Kenro, with his large camera in tow, of course attracted the attention and affection of the children who would gather around him, laughing, pointing and happily posing for a photograph. While the camera captured the images of the children, the children captured Kenro’s heart.
Upon his return, Kenro made the decision to dedicate much of his career and life to the children of Cambodia. He founded Friends Without A Border and set out, with the help of a few friends, to pursue a seemingly impossible goal of building a pediatric hospital in Siem Reap. I will not give away Kenro’s story, as it is his to tell… but if you find yourself in Siem Reap, look for the sign of the green heart that towers over the rooftops. It is the sign of Kenro’s dream that has become true. It belongs to the Angkor Hospital for Children.
I am honored and blessed to have been a part of Kenro’s story and to have been a companion on his remarkable journey which, a long time ago, was inspired by the magic of Angkor and, which until today, has brought hope and smiles to over one million children.