Lead a vivid life that does good

Month: November 2012

We are all horrendous and beautiful.

As I stood motionless at the Killing Fields, what seemed like millions of tear drops landed on my umbrella. The bleak wet day only added to my somber mood as the horror of humanity played out in my mind. Men, women, boys, girls & babies slaughtered by their fellow countrymen on a scale I will never grasp.

Looking intently at a single skull I am repulsed by humanity. This skull is just one of thousands lining the shelves, that represent up to 1.4 million murder victims in Cambodia. At the height of the killing in Cambodia I was 8 years old and I heard of how boys as young as 11 were conscripted to the Khmer Rouge to become killers. Boys then, who are now men in their forties, murderers.

It is easy to stand divorced from the moment and think we would have behaved differently.

But we all have deceived others. All been deceived.

When faced with the choice of kill, or be killed, few of us really have the strength and courage to choose anything but life.

Humanity at its core is desperately dark.

We are all horrendous.


As I traveled Cambodia every person I saw or spoke with was beautiful.

Some had bodies disfigured in ways I have never before seen, but they are beautiful.

Our Tuk Tuk drivers, beautiful.

The beggar and her child, beautiful.

Poor children playing in the water from a good well, beautiful.

Often the stories and circumstances were heart breaking, but the people …


Only senior officials of the Khmer Rouge will be brought to justice, which means tens of thousands of murderers now live ordinary lives in Cambodia. Is it possible I met some of these killers and thought they were beautiful? Yes, and I now understand that in the right circumstance we are all capable of the horror of the Khmer Rouge. (That doesn’t make it right.)

You are capable of these things.

You are horrendous.

Yet I just think … you are beautiful.

Lesson 4 from Cambodia visit 2012: We are all capable of horrendous things and we are all beautiful people.

One reason why education in New Zealand is fantastic!

Imagine a 10-year-old student you have known. Now pause, and think about their schooling and what they have really learnt at the age of 10.

Consider how little they really know in mathematics and english.

Their drawing is good, but they are no designer.

They have creativity but their cognitive skills are lacking.

Now, imagine the 10-year-old finishing school for good. Then you discover they have no access to books or libraries or the internet and you realise the child’s lifetime intellectual learning is over.

Gone is the opportunity to learn more about science or maths or design or art. Gone is the opportunity to seek a University degree.

I have just described the average student in Cambodia. Most rural children have access to a basic primary education, at which point the distance and cost increase to attend high school is so great, that the children finish school and start working on the family rice fields.

If most people you knew finished school at 10, how much opportunity to develop, invent and improve would your community have?

How much opportunity would exist to improve the efficiency and productivity of your family land?

At a very basic level, how much opportunity would you have to improve water quality, sanitation and health, if your education finished at 10?

The unfortunate answer is at best, ‘very little!

As I toured rural Cambodia recently and heard that most children finish school at the age of 10, all I could think about was my 10-year-old daughter finishing school at the end of this year. She is smart and has learnt heaps, but hasn’t yet learnt anywhere near enough for a lifetime. And if her access to books and teachers and even the internet disappeared, her future learning would be unthinkably limited.

As I thought of the implication of finishing school at 10, I realised how incredibly blessed we are to have the education and resources on offer in New Zealand.

It offers our children a lifetime of learning.

It means our children’s children will learn even more, and develop more cure’s and create more truly great things.

Education offers hope for our future!

Oh, and the one reason I think education in NZ is fantastic? Because my children continue in school until at least 16 and even then their opportunities aren’t limited. Too often we forget that.

Lesson 3 from Cambodia visit 2012: Education is pivotal for the future of communities