From southeast Cleveland to southeast Asia, People for Care and Learning is making a difference — supplying the needs of children and adults wherever the need exists. It is true to its motto: “Inspiring hope ... empowering potential.”
Fred Garmon and his wife, Shirley, have worked with PCL since its start in 2001 with Bob Pace, the founder and president. In 2004, Garmon was asked to go into the venture full time and take over the reins as executive director.
People for Care and Learning began with the Church of God, starting work with children in Cambodia. Now the ministry is present in five counties of southeast Asia. The independent and non-sectarian entity is registered as organization partners with other charitable organizations, clubs and companies to educate, feed and house people in the poorest parts of the world.
In the last four years, PCL has taken more than 400 people in mission teams to Cambodia. The volunteerism tours could be called “vacation with purpose,” but there is no vacation to those who choose to go on a working tour. “The chemistry of the makeup of team,” Garmon said, “dictates the work to be done.”
The volunteers include doctors, nurses, construction workers, teachers and helpers of all ages.
PCL started with only one orphanage in 2003 and now it is supporting two in Cambodia, along with a learning center, feeding center and medical clinic.
In the Tonal Sap Lake region — “Great Lake” — there are millions who live on the lake in boats and shacks, Garmon said. The ministry has bought and built two barges for education, feeding and water purification and solar energy.
North Cleveland Church of God pastor Mitch Mahoney has sponsored a water system on one barge. Rudy and Yvonne Wright from Dallas, Texas, have initiated the Solar Panel Project, a state-of-the-art system, in partnership with the Lee University business department. Internships are served on the mission field. They are also partners with Lee’s Cross Cultural Studies, which sends students to the area 10 weeks per year.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia, Common Grounds, a combined coffee shop and cyber café — a micro-enterprise and sustainability project — has been launched. The shop employs 25 teens who are given vocational training and language skills.
The premise is “business as missions.” Non-government organizations can start businesses which provide income which comes back to sustain the economy.
Everything PCL does is free — “We do not charge for anything — medical care, feeding, orphanage, education, pig farms and so forth,” Garmon said. “... give jobs; teach English; and give computer training.”
This is the cutting edge for sustainability in rural villages: Integrated farms with pig farms, fish ponds, fruit and a rice bank. Each part strengthens the next. The rice bank provides rice for the crop and at harvesting, the rice goes back to the bank to provide for the next season.
It’s not everyone who can partner with a country or an international organization. But The Kingdom of Cambodia, in its recognition of the efforts of People for Care and Learning, presented PCL with the Humanitarian Medal of Honor. And PCL is also working with the United Nations in its Poverty Reduction Plan.
Southeast Asia is an area in which people live below international poverty level ($1 or less). Although 95 percent of the poorest live in southeast Asia, only 3 percent of Christian giving goes to that part of the world, according to Garmon.
“We are trying to change it,” he said.
It only takes $1,000 to build a home and 125 homes have been built for the those who otherwise would have to sleep on the streets, on dumps or on the river. A two-story learning facility has also been built. And in Thailand, PCL supports an orphanage in Chiang Mai run by missionaries Richard and Connie Cummins.
There is also a state-of-the-art dental facility overseen by Dr. Ken Pilgrim of Flintstone, Ga. Drinking water is provided through purification containers which cost $10 and will last one year, along with putting in wells where the only other accessible water is from ditches and dirty rivers.
First Baptist Church and Keith Ministries have played a part in the Asian projects, as well as several clubs and organizations in the Cleveland area. Youth camps are conducted and local teams have been involved in construction and teaching, as well as medical and food distribution.
“We invite anyone to go and be involved with Cambodia, Vietnam or Thailand,” Garmon said. “It’s a safe environment,” he added. A team is scheduled to go in March. Youth camps are held every summer.
PCL is definitely making a difference from southeast Cleveland to southeast Asia. In Cleveland, the organization donated a playground to Habitat for Humanity Century Village. And it partnered with Men and Women of Action and First Tennessee Bank (which donated land) to install a $100,000 playground at the Raider Drive walkway at the beginning of the Greenway. PCL’s $50,000 grant was matched by Hammill Recreation out of Concord, Ala.
Garmon’s heart for the hurting comes form a life of heartbreak of his own. Born in Charlotte, N.C., his mother died when he was nine years old and only six months before his sister was murdered in hi front yard before his eyes. His father turned to alcohol and left young Garmon to care for himself. He turned to the streets and eventually ended up in an orphanage himself.
He was the first from his family to graduate from high school. He came to Lee College in 1976 and worked his way though schnook, graduating debt-free. He went on to receive his master’s of divinity and his doctorate in organizational leadership from Regent University. He is a marathon runner and was honored as an Olympic Torch bearer in 2001. He and Shirley met at Lee University where they both graduated and afterward served as pastors for 25 years before coming to PCL. They have two daughters and two granddaughters.
Garmon said if you could have any job ... “What I am — just what I do — (it’s the) best job in the world,” he said. “Helping people and giving back. What better job in the world could you have?”
PCL meets the need
Needy families and individuals go daily without proper food, clean water, shelter and essential medical care. In 2010, People for Care and Learning was able to meet the needs of thousands of people — in Cambodia alone, each month. More than 5,600 people are impacted by PCL’s ongoing outreaches monthly:
— 828 patients are treated in eight different free medical clinics.
— 705 hungry people are provided healthy meals.
— 76 people study at the PCL management institute.
— 38 children are provided a safe and happy home with a family that loves them.
— 35 young people participate in youth programs.
— 426 students study English.
— 39 staff members are employed.
— 1,000 families drink safe clean water from PCL water filters.
— 275 people live in new homes built by PCL.
— 56 people have access to water though a new well dug by PCL.
— 516 students are given the opportunity to attend school.
— 914 students study computer.
— 461 students study in leadership development schools.
This list does not include the changed lives form the solar panels and water filtration system installed at the Tonie Sap, the lives touched by the CBS broadcast, the 300-plus students whose lives were impacted by youth camp or the hundreds of people who traveled with PCL, including three teams of university students who interned.
For more information on People for Care and Learning, visit the website www.peopleforcare.org or visit on Facebook.