Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about five individuals around
the world who are making a difference.
They are making the world a better place by helping people in special
first individual who is making a difference is a refugee from Burma. Thousands of people flee Burma each year to escape
poverty, oppression and civil war. Many
of them choose to stay in Thailand.
Cynthia Maung is a Burmese doctor who operates a small public health
center near the Thai border with Burma.
She is making a difference in her community by providing services that
are not available to most people in this area.
people are waiting at the public health center. Mothers and their children wait in line to get vaccines to
protect them against diseases. In
another line, parents with newborn babies wait for documents that show their
babies were born in Thailand. The
documents take the place of birth certificates. Thai officials do not recognize these people because they are
refugees. But Doctor Cynthia Maung
Cynthia, as she is called, fled Burma in nineteen eighty-eight after a military
campaign against people who demonstrated for democracy and justice. She says she joined with the demonstrators. She says people started disappearing or
fleeing to the border when Burma's military seized power. She decided to settle near the border to
work for political change.
small building, Cynthia Maung started performing operations and helping women
give birth. She cleaned her instruments
in a rice cooker. She also trained
young volunteer health workers. Today,
those workers treat people for landmine injuries and many diseases. Her health care center receives donations of
money from non-governmental organizations and foreign governments, including the
Cynthia makes a little money go a long way.
Each year, one hundred fifty thousand people come for treatment. Those who can, pay less than one dollar.
Cynthia lives next to the health center.
She says the workers there do not only treat diseases. They also educate young people who go back
and support health activities in their communities. For example, the center trains volunteer health workers who go
back to work in the ethnic Karen and other areas of Burma. Some of the volunteers are former patients
who are now helping others. Doctor
Cynthia says young people should be taught not to feel like victims. Instead, she
says, they should see themselves as people who can change and improve their situation.
Theary Seng is a human rights activist working to heal her country,
Cambodia. As a child, she lived through
the rule of the Khmer Rouge during the nineteen seventies. During four years in power, the Khmer Rouge
was responsible for the deaths of at least one million, five hundred thousand
Cambodians. Theary Seng's parents were
among those killed. After the fall of
the Khmer Rouge, she escaped to Thailand and then went to the United
States. She attended law school and
became a lawyer.
Theary Seng is back in Cambodia, supporting human rights as the head of the
Center for Social Development. She is a
critic of corruption and abuse wherever it exists -- in Cambodia and around the
world. At a recent demonstration in
Phnom Penh, she attempted to leave flowers to honor those killed in the civil
war in the Darfur area of Sudan. But
Cambodian government officials prevented her from doing so.
Seng takes a special interest in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The court is starting to take legal action
against former Khmer Rouge leaders for their crimes. She serves as an official representative for the victims.
has a television show. It seeks to find
the country's next generation of young leaders. Theary Seng says her work is not to do anything big but to be a
common citizen in her homeland where she suffered in the past.
THEARY SENG: "And now, I'm taking that suffering, and shaping it
into hope, and trying to work with individuals who had not the time and space
to heal that I've had."
Saydee is making a difference in his country, Liberia. In Monrovia, the capital, the sound of
typing mixes with the sound of cars in the street. Mister Saydee is a clergyman and former accountant.
works as a typist and teacher. He is
teaching unemployed Liberians how to type.
The students do not pay him anything.
One of the students is Isaiah Thomas.
He says he is learning to type because he wants to work for an
Saydee says he wants to help young people gain a skill to succeed. He says it is the best he can do to help
Liberia re-build after years of civil war.
Saydee earns money by typing contracts and other documents, like resumes. A resume is a list of a person's education
and work experience. It can be useful
when a person is looking for a job.
book artist Robert Walker is making a difference in New York City. He uses his art to help people understand
the disease AIDS.
children and even adults in the United States enjoy reading comic books. Superheroes in comic books have unusual
abilities. They use their abilities to
help people and save the world. Like
most superheroes, Mister Walker's characters have special powers. For example, one superhero can see in the
dark. One can lift more than three
hundred tons. Another can come back
from the dead. Also, like most
superheroes, his characters have to deal with trouble. These superheroes all have H.I.V., the virus
that causes AIDS.
Walker says some members of his family died of AIDS when he was a child. That gave him the idea to create a comic
book called "O Men." It
includes nine characters living with H.I.V.
characters are men and women who represent different races and socio-economic
groups. They also were infected with
the virus in different ways. Mister
Walker says he wanted to fight depressing images connected with the disease.
ROBERT WALKER: "It's not a black disease. It's not a white disease.
It's not a gay disease. It's a disease of humanity that lacks awareness."
Gerry Gladston is the co-owner of Midtown Comics in New York City. He says many comic books have important
political, social and educational messages.
Walker spoke to many H.I.V. and AIDS organizations in researching his comic
book. He says he wanted to make the
stories realistic as well as factual.
Gebregiorgis is an Ethiopian-American who returned to the
land of his birth to make a difference.
Yohannes, as he is known, became an American citizen many years ago. But he gave up his life as a children's
librarian in San Francisco, California. Yohannes says he was concerned that
Ethiopian children had no books. He
said most schools in Ethiopia do not have libraries. There are almost no children's books in any of Ethiopia's many
Yohannes started the Donkey Mobile Library to provide children with their first
books. His group brings books to
children who have none.
YOHANNES GEBREGIORGIS: "Most kids we have noticed holding a book upside
down. We have taken pictures of those kids. But later on we find out that those
kids learn how to use the book, how to flip the pages and to look at the
pictures and then gradually to read the stories in the book."
donkey mobile libraries are planned, with money from groups in the United
States. Donated English-language books
have begun arriving in Ethiopia. Also,
Yohannes has established a publishing company to produce books in languages
that local children can read.
first book was published in three languages.
It is a re-telling of an old folk story about, what do you think? A boy and his favorite animal -- a donkey!
beginning, children came to the mobile library mainly because of the
donkeys. But Yohannes discovered that
what really excited the children was the books. He dreams about taking his donkey mobile libraries to more
Ethiopian towns and villages. After
all, there are millions of other children who want to learn to read.
This program was written by
VOA correspondents and adapted by Shelley Gollust. Our producer was Mario Ritter.
I'm Bob Doughty.
And I'm Barbara Klein. You can download audio and read scripts on
our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.