January 12th, 2008
I laid in bed, the cold night air brushing my nose and cheeks through the cracked window. I thought about how comfortable the flannel sheets were and how it would be two months before I’d experience them again. (at right: me with jenny. photo by andrew hida)
I had stumbled home from the bar after hosting a fundraiser, emotionally drained and exhausted from two weeks of non-stop tension and last minute projects. It was no more than a month earlier I decided to commit to reporting on anti-human trafficking work in Cambodia–I couldn’t say no, for one opportunity after the next had appeared. It only made sense to seize them. The problem is there is very little money in it and I don’t have much myself. The 100 or so uncompensated hours per month I put into the FEAR Project, plus the inherent lack of revenue in my line of work, leaves me in a continual “college student” economic state.
And so I appealed to my community, first starting with people of financial means or professional interest. While successful, it wasn’t enough. As I spoke of my efforts, people I knew of lesser means questioned why I hadn’t asked them. They wanted to give. $25, $100, $200 contributions came in. One of my apartment neighbors was reading my fundraiser invite, laundry basket in hand, and kept on saying “I want to donate.” She did.
And so I did, knowing that even if i raised the funds I thought fair to bill one of the NGO’s I was working for, I would still come home with March rent paid and $0 in the bank. It would set me back against all the gains I’d made on my debt–I’d have to get a “real” job and go back to eating ramen. (at left: jenny and jenna)
This is about a community of people who understand their role in the world and how their actions have an impact. And this is about a groundswell of support I didn’t know existed in my circle of friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve never even met. And it is–and it isn’t–about me. (at right: me with miho, a radio producer. photo by andrew hida)
That is actually one of the more difficult parts for me to conceptualize; I want it to be about the work, but I’m coming to understand there is a component I bring to this story that allows my community to connect. It is strengthening, endearing, but also weighs heavily; before the responsibility was only to myself and my subjects but now it is to people who believe I can do this work, who look at me and say “I think it’s awesome that you’re just going for it.” Ever the one to minimize my accomplishments I stare back thinking, “It’s just Cambodia.”
And yet, I’ve been on the other side, the one looking in awe at another’s adventurous spirit. Part of the reason I am here is because a dear friend of mine, only weeks before she died in a climbing accident, said generally “Tim, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s that you don’t have the balls to do it.” And I quote directly.
Lara Kellogg lived an incredibly rich and challenging life–because she went for it. In her death, and the things that followed afterwards, I found a greater sense for our mortality, the fragility of life, and how we get one chance to do something we can feel satisfied with. I am looking to live my life purposefully. (at left: projection and linda. photo by andrew hida)
And so it was in the afterwards of the fundraiser, in a quieting bar that I drank with Aaron, the bartender, who had facilitated the fundraiser. Clinton, one of the owners, had cut me an $800 check–my split of the burger-two-beers for $20 offering. In my pocket was $250 in cash from the raffle and another couple hundred in checks–as well as a few pledges people had made earlier. I had raffled some camelbaks, Outdoor Research apparel, Black Diamond ski gloves, and some of my prints which I heard were a real hit. We had packed the place with around 70-90 people, catching the kitchen off guard.
People were there because they wanted to make a difference. They wanted to be aware, to learn how they could act, to be part of anti-human trafficking work. For them, I was a crucial component to this.
One friend said “Tim, if you come back and lose your (apartment) you can stay with us for a year if you need to. I’m serious, and I’m not drunk. If you were just a dirtbag climber, that would be different, but what you are doing is important. And what you see here is one-thousandth of the support you have from this community.” (at right: kasi and i discussing last minute business in the wee hours. photo by andrew hida)
Later, as I lay in my bed, I stared out the window at the night sky and let my body relax. 24 hours to go, my bags still to pack, work to do, but at that moment it was all immaterial. I closed my eyes and cried with exhaustion and thanks.
Many thanks to everyone involved–the attendees whose support was overwhelming; the Park Pub staff; my friends Dan and Allison who set up the projector system, were a sounding board, and were simply there (and who will be here in Cambodia shortly); Deb, whose idea the fundraiser was in the first place; Jenny and Roger who donated raffle items; Mary Sue who gave me the projector and an unwavering pledge of emotional and financial support. There are others too, but the list is long.
But I especially want to recognize these people who donated:
Mary Sue Brenner
Inge Falk Van Rooyen
John Giebelhausen and Erika Obrietan
Dorothy and Yas Matsui
Jerry and Mary Ellen Manock
The Park Pub and its exceptional staff
Kasi VerBrugghen and Andreas Schmidt
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