My Hero – Ponheary Ly
Actually I have many heroes in Siem Reap. There are so many people there doing selfless work and amazing things for their fellow human beings. And I have so many Cambodian friends who are just living a life that we could not even imagine, a life facing great challenges and almost against all odds, a life where they nevertheless manifest great love and compassion in the world. These too are heroes for me who give me such energy and inspiration each time I visit.
But I never tire of telling people or writing about Ponheary Ly who was among her other achievements a CNN Hero finalist in 2010. One of my most soulful and emotional days in Siem Reap was going with Ponheary to the opening day of Wat Bo school where the Ponheary Ly Foundation supports hundreds of very poor school children with the school supplies and other bits and bobs they need to stay in school. My thoughts on that day were encapsulated in an article I wrote after an interview with Ponheary. The title – Education is the Sweetest Revenge – pretty much summed up the life’s mission this stalwart woman has given herself. One of the other most soulful and moving days I have spent in Siem Reap, perhaps in my life, was again with Ponheary and some of the other amazing folks from the Ponheary Ly Foundation when I had the immense privilege to truck a nutritious hot lunch 3 hours north of Siem Reap to the most amazing school the foundation runs in the terribly challenging village of Koh Ker.
So, no, I never tire writing about this amazing and inspiring woman. But I am not alone. Here’s a beautiful article about Ponheary written by Shelley Seale – In the Shadows of Angkor Wat, Cambodia – that shares some amazing and inspiring insights into the background of this woman of valor. The article begins:
At the age of 14, Ponheary Ly died and came back to life. At least, that’s how she describes it. The year was 1977, and the Khmer Rouge was on its deadly rampage in Cambodia. After seeing her father killed, along with 13 other family members, Ly was on the run and in hiding when some soldiers accused her of stealing food. They marched her deep into the woods and forced her to dig her own grave.
I encourage you to read the full article. I’ll be very surprised if Ponheary doesn’t become one of your heroes too.