CSN's Journey to Cambodia


CSN's Journey to Cambodia

Watch entire two-part documentary here

I mean hell on Earth. Its apocalyptic. I used to tell people it would be like a scene after World War III, after the nuclear holocaust. You dont feel like youre on Earth. -- Bill Smith

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Its a vast wasteland of trash, poverty and disease; a mountain of garbage, a world without hope.

Its a place youd never want to visit, let alone live your life. And yet, that is the reality for hundreds of Cambodians whose dead-end existence brought them to a place where only a miracle can save them.

Or a man with a camera who wanted to help.

Bill Smith, the longtime team photographer for the Chicago Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks found the Phnom Penh garbage dump while visiting Cambodia 10 years ago. Think of the dirtiest place in the United States, multiply it by 20 and that is where these people work and live -- many of them children, who scavenge through the garbage for 30 cents a day, enough to buy morsels of food.

Its the kind of scene you cant forget. Bill certainly couldn't. It changed his life -- and because of him -- has since transformed the lives of over 100 children from the garbage dump.

He and Chicago Bulls executive Joe ONeil have created A New Day Cambodia, a center two miles from the garbage dump that provides free shelter, food and education for children who once had nothing.

Now they have a chance at life -- which is everything.

The look and sparkle in their eyes is the just the biggest difference, Smith said. Hopelessness becomes hope for the future and its not just that they are clean. They have a whole different persona. They hold their head higher, they have pride, they take care of themselves and feel more human than they were before.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT, Comcast SportsNet will air From the Sports World to the Third World: A Journey to Cambodia, a two-part documentary that takes you inside the garbage dump as well as the center for A New Day Cambodia.

In Part 1, youll meet people like Sokha Chen, who was orphaned at the age of 9, and was living on the side of a road with her brother for six months. After her brother died, she made her way to the garbage dump where Smith found her in 2007. Five years later shes thriving at a New Day Cambodia. She goes to one of the best private schools in the country, she was recently featured in Newsweek as one of 150 women who shake the world, and last year traveled to the White House where she met first lady Michelle Obama.

The metamorphosis from one child to the next is extraordinary.

Ill never forget the day we went out and picked up these children at these shacks and literally the parents said good-bye to their children, ONeill recalls. I think we moved about 15 or 16 kids in the first trip. These kids had to learn how to use a toilet. They had never used showers before. We had hired a staff here and we were scared beyond belief.

Smith and ONeil had no experience in starting or running a charity, let alone 8,000 miles away from their homes in Chicago.

I was worried. My intentions were good, but maybe we had made a mess of things, maybe we had made a mess of their lives, Smith said. We didn't know what we were doing. We took them away from their parents, we turned their lives upside down, we dont really know what were doing, we have no experience in this, but it worked.

In Part 2 on Wednesday, we follow along as Smith and ONeil go into the slums of the garbage dump to choose four more children to bring to the center.

One of the kids is a malnourished 7-year-old boy named Mey-Mey who was living with his mother and five siblings in a one-room shack with barely any possessions.

Smith says that he feels like hes playing God when he decides which children to rescue. Looking inside the home of Mey-Mey, he knew immediately the difference he and ONeil could make in the young boys life.

This puts donation money to work in a way that every single penny will count for this boy, said Smith, standing outside the familys shack, which was surrounded by garbage.

This means the world to this family. Its like giving them a million dollars, or a thousand dollars a week for life. They have absolutely nothing, and now theyre going to have their youngest child go to school.

At home, Smith and ONeil have their minds set on their full-time jobs back in Chicago. However, a large part of their hearts are always with those who they have saved thousands of miles away.

 This is not a charity that you do for a year or two, or a dinner you support and then say, Heck with it. We have 100 children here and they aren't going away, ONeil said. We want to send everyone on their way where they can self-sustain and start a family, provide for that family, provide for their former family and improve not only their life but elevate their country and give back to their country and other children and help the new kids coming along.

Smith has made a career out of taking photographs of some of the most iconic figures in Chicago sports history: Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Derrick Rose, Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

They are heroes for their achievements. The same should be said for Smith and ONeil. Athletes affect lives.

These two men are changing them.

People are neglected, and for some weird reason, Joe and I, weve figured out how to do this, Smith said. And we feel a responsibility now. Like we actually know how to go out to a garbage dump and pick out kids and deal with the parents, and its just kind of an unusual talent that we have learned. They have become part of our family. Its an extension of our family over here and what we get out of it is coming to see our extended family and watch them prosper.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

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Together again: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane reunite on top line vs. Devils

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.