Im in Cambodia.
Thats what Ive been reminding myself since I arrived here on Saturday night.
Actually, its come more in the form of a question:
Im in Cambodia??
Ive been told this is the best way to sum up your first 24 hours in this far-off land, a country bordering Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, a place over 8,700 miles away from home.
To get here, the trip began with a 13-hour flight from Chicago to Seoul, South Korea. After a three-hour layover, there was another five-hour flight to Cambodia. The time difference? 12 hours ahead. As I write this, its 4:36am in Chicago. All of you are probably fast asleep. Me? Im waiting at the Siem Reap airport to board a final flight to Phnom Penh, amazed that I can actually remember my name.
Its been an exhausting first 24 hours, but worth every second of it.
The reason for this extraordinary journey is due to the work of two remarkable human beings. Bill Smith is the longtime team photographer for the Bulls, Blackhawks, and Bears. 10 years ago, while visiting Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Bill and his wife Lauren came across a vast garbage dump where impoverished children, some wearing tattered clothing, others nothing, were picking garbage for 25 cents a day.
The couple was left stunned, speechless.
Then, two thoughts entered their minds: How could this be happening in the 21st century? And what can we can do to help them?
The answers came in their combined mission to save as many kids as they can from living such a horrific existence.
In 2006, Smith and his longtime friend Joe ONeil, Senior Director of Ticket Operations for the Bulls, formed A New Day Cambodia, a foundation that has rescued over 100 children from the Phnom Penh garbage dump, providing food, shelter, education and a real first chance in life.
Despite coming to them with limited or no schooling, some children have since gone to college, others have gotten jobs in the workforce, while many between the ages of 8 and 21 currently live at the center, making remarkable progress.
Were here in Cambodia this week to see first-hand how Smiths foundation has forever changed the path of these childrens lives. Well also join Bill as he rescues more kids from the garbage dump.
Well have daily updates throughout the week here on CSNChicago.com. A full show will air on Comcast SportsNet at a later date.
It promises to be an inspiring journey.
Click here for more information on A New Day Cambodia.