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SIBC fundraiser dinner benefits Cambodia

Rohan Anand | Friday, December 1, 2006

During the past three days, the Student International Business Council has hosted three events commemorating Cambodian Awareness Week, shedding light on the continued economic and social devastation the country suffered after the Khmer Rouge incursions and genocide of the Vietnamese during the 1970s and 1980s.

On Tuesday night, the SIBC showed the film “S21” and on Wednesday the movie “Bomb Hunters.” It also hosted a Thai/Cambodian dinner Thursday to raise money and awareness for its Protecting the Earth and Protecting Yourself (PEPY) subdivision.

“We were so surprised and excited by the amazing turnout,” sophomore member Liz McLaughlin said. “It’s disturbing when you hear people ask if Cambodia is in Africa, so we’re really glad that we’re educating more people about [the conditions] there.”

PEPY, which is a non-government organization, was founded and created by Notre Dame Class of 2002 alumna Daniella Pappy, and its aim is to promote increased awareness of Cambodian society.

The Notre Dame chapter was created after senior SIBC member Tim Rann volunteered in Cambodia two summers ago and met Pappy during his time spent there.

“I was really impressed with [Pappy’s] enthusiasm for spreading awareness and developing the opportunities available for children in Cambodia,” Rann said. “I felt that the diverse, 200-member SIBC could help promote PEPY at Notre Dame.”

PEPY mainly works to benefit Cambodian children, who are the first generation of a younger population to survive after the Khmer Rouge devastation. PEPY hopes to build homes and schools to house and educate the children in rural and urban areas.

“There are more land mines than children in the entire country,” sophomore member Kate McDermott said. “There are even more than the amount used during World War II. I think that the $5 donations will go a long way.”

Well over 50 people showed up for the event. Many, like freshman Cassidy Blair, knew of friends who had volunteered in Cambodia and wanted to learn more about the situation in the poverty-stricken country.

“My friend’s sister works as a missionary in Cambodia,” she said, “and I’m so impressed that the SIBC is working for such a good cause.”

The event also had a special guest, Heather Connell, the executive producer of Los Angeles-based Displaced Yankee Productions. Connell showed the trailer for a documentary she has been working on for a few years, called “Small Voices: Stories of Cambodia’s Children.”

“The film focuses on the plight of street and garbage-dump children,” Connell said, “and explores how the children view themselves, their lives and their future.”

Connell and her fellow producers selected five Cambodian children to be the subjects of the documentary. Interviewing, interacting with and filming the children, she said, has been “life altering.”

“Standing in [the city of] Stung Meanchey,” she said, “and seeing barefoot and dirty children digging through garbage, where medical waste is dumped off, was horrifying.”

PEPY members are also exploring the option of working with Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) and a non-profit organization that rescues abandoned children.

“I’m looking into the option of interning with the CCF next summer in Cambodia,” junior Allison Fleece said. “It will require me to teach English to orphans, which may not be easy, but I’m definitely going to convince my mom to let me go.”