Cambodia is a place that was very hard for me not to love. The wonderful people charmed my socks off, the beautiful scenery and ancient ruins took my breath away, and the food gave me stories to tell my friends for years (“Spiders? Let me tell you about the time I ate tarantula…”).

But of all the things that made me fall so deeply in love with this place, there was one that stood heads and shoulders above them all. It wasn’t the smiling people. It wasn’t the 16th century temples. It wasn’t even the deep fried frogs. No. I fell in love with Cambodia because of the hope.

Yes, the hope. I realize that may seem like an absurd statement to say about a country one generation removed from a horrific genocide. It may seem crazy in a country wracked by poverty and disease. It may even seem like a flat-out lie when compared to the stories of brothels, child prostitutes and trafficking. But believe me when I say that hope outshines them all.

This hope, found in the smile of a child whose family can afford to send him to school… This hope, found in the pride of a woman whose new sewing skills provide a steady income for her family… This hope, found in the laughter of once at-risk girls now trained in culinary arts…

Scratch beneath the surface of what the Center for Global Impact is doing in Cambodia, and you’ll find hope shining through everywhere.

That’s what this issue is all about. Sure, we’re going to introduce you to the beautiful country of Cambodia. You’re going to meet people who will leave a smile glued to your face. And yes, you’re going to cringe when you see the nasty things our team has put into our mouths. But most of all, you’re going to get a dose of hope. And if you’re like me, this hope is going to give you a reason to love the beautiful, fun, mysterious, exciting country of Cambodia too.


Barry Rodriguez