Author Pat Dernec
In 2004 I visited Angkor Wat for the first time. When we got through the Siem Reap airport and got in the first taxi in line the trunk wouldn’t stay closed so they waved up another one. That is when we met Ravy.
He was an eager young man from Battambang, he had been an elementary school teacher there but there was no money in it and no real path for advancement. The post Angelina Jolie tourism boom had hit Siem Reap so he came there and got a job driving.
He offered to drive us for $25USD per day, that sounded like a good deal so I booked him for 3 days. We learned a lot about him. When we left I tipped him an extra $100 and told him we’d contact him on our next visit.
The next time we came he met us at the airport and over the next few days he told us he had looked into a computer school but wasn’t impressed with the quality of the teaching.
I asked if there was anything else he was interested in and he told me about the Paul Dubrule Tourism School in Siem Reap, set up by a French hotelier to train the hospitality workers so badly wanting there. I had him take us to the school where I got a tour and spoke with the director.
The tuition was about $600USD and living expenses maybe $40/month. I told Ravy that if he were accepted I would pay his tuition and expenses.
For less than a month’s rent for an apartment in LA I had the honor of changing a young man’s life. He excelled at the school, graduating top in his class and was granted a 6 month training job in Lyon, France at a Dubrule hotel. When he returned to Cambodia he was hired on the faculty, becoming a highly respected teacher. He brought his parents and a sibling up from Battambang, found a lovely young lady who is now his wife and the mother of his son. I visit him when I can and marvel at his progress.
The “pass it on” part? I have found myself in trying situations more than once, living rough on the streets, struggling with addiction and depression and there were people who came into my life and gave of themselves with no thought of repayment. I had dinner with Ravy and his family some years ago and his father asked me why I had helped his son. I told him that people had helped me in the past and while I could never repay them I was driven to try by helping others.
Ravy wasn’t the first or the last but he is the one person I can look to and know that my life has not been a waste, that I have left some small mark on the world to it’s betterment.