Monday, January 10, 2005

Dentist's visit to Cambodia triggers book drive for kids

Dentist's visit to Cambodia triggers book drive for kids

Three Cambodian children listen to Janette Carroll of Mount Vernon during her visit in November 2004 to Cambodia.
Submitted photo
Janette Carroll of Mount Vernon closed her cosmetic dentistry practice for the first two weeks of November to visit Cambodia with her father, who lives in Stockton, Calif., and several of his Cambodian American friends. The visit prompted her to organize a book drive after she returned.

Carroll became acquainted with her father's friends, who escaped Cambodia during the despotic regime of communist ruler Pol Pot during the 1970s and ‘80s. When the opportunity came to visit the country, she felt unable to pass it up.

While in Cambodia, Carroll stayed in the capital city of Phnom Penh and the surrounding countryside, meeting people from all walks of life. She spent a lot of time in two orphanages, playing with the children and purchasing necessities for them. She also took the children to a health clinic for examinations.

Carroll stayed at one orphanage briefly, sleeping in a hammock.

"The children looked so sad. Maybe it was because these kids were sick," Carroll said, noting that the children's clothes were in tatters. "They were just rugrats. That really struck me."

The children had a dog in the orphanage, a cue for Carroll to tell a story of her dog back home.

"Their eyes were just wide open, listening to this story," Carroll said. She knew the story would have been more exciting if she had pictures to accompany it — something that books would also accomplish.

Upon returning home, Carroll began coordinating a used book drive with the help of her teenage daughters. So far she has collected about 50 books with pictures and stories written in English, which is the language taught in Cambodian schools.

"All they know is their little village," Carroll said. She hopes to change that by showing the children more of the world through books.

Carroll plans to return to Cambodia in April or September of 2005. She can be reached at 360-840-1148.

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