|One womans mission to save Cambodia
In July, Palm Harbor resident Sophie Stagg returned to the homeland she had not seen since she was a child. In a two-part series, we tell the story of her efforts to help Cambodia's struggling people.
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
It is only the first month of monsoon season, but already the streets in this northern Cambodian city are a red sea of mud and potholes.
In the chaotic tide of motor scooters and small pickup trucks, a boy, perhaps 9 or 10, struggles to push a bicycle laden with a mammoth bundle of grass, feed for his family's cow.
A Toyota minivan bumps alongside the boy. Sophie Stagg slides open the window and reaches out, dangling a maroon T-shirt. It is a gift, bought at Wal-Mart in Palm Harbor and carried 10,000 miles for this very purpose, to be given to a child.
The boy turns, rain dripping off spikes of black hair plastered to his forehead. With a grin, he reaches for the T-shirt. As he does, Sophie sucks in her breath.
The boy has no left hand.
He is a land mine victim, one of thousands in this Southeast Asian nation where rice paddy workers earn 85 cents a day and babies die of diarrhea. A whole generation in Cambodia has known nothing but civil war and poverty, starvation and disease. They subsist on rice and dried fish, and on the gentle acceptance of suffering taught by their Buddhist faith.
The boy drapes the T-shirt on the handlebars and pushes on. He still needs lots of other things: a prosthetic hand. A good meal. A chance to go to school.
At least Sophie did something. She did what she came here to do -- to help.
Only 5-million kids to go.
PART ONE: FACING THE GHOSTS continued
PART TWO: LOVE AND MONEY