A few days ago my wife, Noit, was at the market and her eyes spotted a pair of shoes. These were no ordinary shoes, though they looked cheap. It brought back a flood of memories. In 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia my wife was only 11 years old. The Khmer Rouge destroyed the whole country and forced everyone to work as their slaves. They made them wear black clothes and if a person wore shoes they had to be made out of left over car tires. For 4 years my wife wore her own homemade Khmer Rouge sandals. They never wear out, but sometimes the straps break. They are immensely uncomfortable and were so heavy, so it was easier to walk barefooted on long marches.
After surviving the Khmer Rouge, everyone discarded their sandals as soon as possible to rid themselves of the memory of the past genocide. It brought back too many bad memories. For years my wife only had one shirt, one pair of pants and one pair of Khmer Rouge sandals.
Tomorrow marks the 32nd year of the liberation from the Khmer Rouge. The Cambodian government counted 3.1 million people killed or died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge. It was a horrible time in Cambodia.
Today, 32 years later, is a new day. The pain of the past is distant, but the desire to make a difference in a new generation of Cambodians has not faded. Currently Noit is helping to raise 125 children here in Cambodia through Imparting Smiles. Each year Noit buys the kids new shoes; every year! In fact, she probably buys 500 pairs of shoes a year for those kids. None of them are black and none of them are made from old car tires!