Fred Garmon, executive director of People for Care and Learning (PCL), said the synergy of partnership is an important reason Bradley County residents do an exemplary job with Cleveland-based organizations to make a “big dent” in the issues surrounding poverty.
“But,” he asked. “What could we do if more people got involved? If more people were made aware?”
PCL is convinced people can do better if they are simply made aware of poverty conditions then more would be drawn to become part of what PCL is doing. Still, there are those who could help but choose otherwise because they believe it is effort wasted on people who do not want or deserve help.
“We should be people more of generosity than suspicion,” Garmon said. “If I err, I want to err on the side of generosity and not on the side of greed or selfishness. We can second-guess peoples’ situations until Hades freezes over, but we don’t ever know what causes a person to be in the situation they are in.”
Generosity is always the key to awakening the belief that life doesn’t have to be the way it is.
PCL is taking a group of Cleveland governmental, civic, and business leaders to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to confirm the sister city arrangement between Cleveland and the Southeast Asian capital.
The trip is in response to a visit to Cleveland by the governor of Phnom Penh and a delegation of leaders from Cambodia in August 2012.
The group will depart on March 9 and return March 20. During the stay in Phnom Penh, the delegation will have an official audience with the governor and other Cambodian dignitaries.
The Cleveland party will include Garmon; Bill Estes, city councilman; Gary Farlow, Chamber of Commerce president; Bill George, board chair of PCL; and Tim Hill, PCL board member and Church of God executive.
A larger group of 27 other local businessmen, civic club leaders, church representatives, and PCL staff and board members will meet with Phnom Penh officials during a three-day stay in the capital city. They will travel to Siem Reap, a site of other PCL activities, then return to Phnom Penh for three days for the dedication of the Build a City project.
When the sister city initiative began in 2012, City Mayor Tom Rowland and the City Council issued a proclamation acknowledging the benefits of the relationship, citing friendship, goodwill, and the development of educational, cultural, social, and economic exchange between the cities.
The sister city proposal was born out of relationships with PCL, which sponsors orphanages, English-language teaching programs, a demonstration farm, water purification wells and filters, job training efforts, medical clinics, and other services in Cambodia.
“We now know there are certain variables that really help people to become more marketable to help people pull themselves up, and that’s really the key. How do we help people pull themselves out of the poverty cycle? Education is such a great aspect of that,” he said. “Another great need is clean water. The majority of the children who die because of disease and sickness die because they can’t get clean water — and they die before 5 years old. We believe everyone ought to have access to clean water. When they talk about education and clean water, these are ways every family in America that has some disposable income can give to some organization that is credible and has integrity. That way, they can make a huge difference.”
PCL’s most visionary program is called Build a City, the construction of a village from the ground up, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
The project will aid 1,500 families, many forcibly relocated from a shantytown into an area without utility services, sewer system, or other necessities. The village, known locally as Andong 3, will include a complete infrastructure of streets, sewers, water, and electric service for more than 6,000 people. It will include individual family housing, market, school, medical clinic, job training center, and park.
Garmon said everyone in the United States has hope, but people in the developing world — the majority of people in the 10/40 Window — oftentimes wake up with no hope. The 10/40 Window is the geographical and demographical area reaching from Africa to Asia where 90 percent of the world’s poor exist.
Hope is the one ingredient people need to escape the cyclical issues of poverty.
“The catch-phrase for People for Care and Learning is we inspire hope and we empower potential,” Garmon said.