Monday, December 29, 2008

Not For The Column: Nicholas Kristof Builds A Junior High School In Cambodia.

On his Times blog this morning, Nicholas Kristof disclosed that he and his wife, former Times reporter Sheryl WuDunn, have built a middle school in a town two hours east of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He said he won't be writing about it in his newspaper column.

"I’ve been visiting Cambodia for the last dozen years and have been particularly moved by the horrific sex trafficking here," Kristof explains. "One of the antidotes to prevent trafficking is education, and Cambodia is desperately short of schools."

So he and WuDunn decided to devote money earned from the advance for a new book coming out this year -- "Half The Sky," about women in the developing world -- to building the school, through the auspices of a group called American Assistance For Cambodia.

"In my speech to the new school," Kristof writes, "I told the kids that I sometimes wondered why America was so rich and Cambodia was so poor. It’s not because Americans are smarter or more industrious than Cambodians, because Cambodians are sharp as a whistle and incredibly hard-working. One of the factors, I believe, is the educational gap, and we’re just so pleased to do our part to reduce that gap."

Kristof took his family -- including his three children, ages 11 to 16 -- to the school's opening ceremony this month. This morning he wrote eloquently about the experience, and how it came to pass; he also described other ways Americans have made contributions to Cambodia, including a woman who teaches English to children at a Phnom Penh garbage dump.

Kristof also mentions that the school is looking for an American teacher. He suggests contacting the principal if you're interested.

Reading Kristof's post this morning calls to mind the axiom attributed to H.L. Mencken about journalism's role "to afflict the comfortable, and to comfort the afflicted." The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and a committed, passionate champion of the world's underprivileged, it's hard to think of a reporter who takes that credo more to heart than Nicholas Kristof.

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