STANDING UP FOR CAMBODIAN LIVES #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Pung Chhiv Kek made a promise when she was a very sick child–if she recovered, she'd be a doctor and help other children live. She did just that. When she was seven years old, she contracted malaria. Cambodian medical services being what they were at that time, it was not diagnosed accurately, and she was given antibiotics. She lost a lot of weight and a lot of hair. "I was very skinny," she said, "and waiting to die." She promised herself that if she recovered, she'd study medicine and spend the rest of her life helping others, especially children. Luckily for Kek, her father—who was a government official not a doctor—diagnosed the disease, gave Kek quinine, and saved her. Jump ahead a couple of decades: Kek has now kept the first part of her promise and earned a medical degree, in France. She provides medical services in not only Cambodia but also Canada, Brazil, and Angola. But in the 1970s, Cambodia is torn apart by war. Not only that, but in 1971 Kek's parents leave Cambodia for their own medical reasons and, for some unknown reason, they're labeled as traitors and forbidden to return. Years later, however, Kek is in the right place at the right time. She meets soon-to-be-elected-president-of-France Francois Mitterand, who promises her that if he's elected, he'll help with the situation in Cambodia. He wins, and he and Kek arrange negotiations between the warring parties. In 1991 the Paris Peace Accords are signed, and Kek returns to Cambodia. There, she creates the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights—LICADHO (a French acronym). LICADHO monitors human rights violations in Cambodia, provides legal representation and humanitarian assistance to victims of abuse, monitors prisons, and offers programs to protect women's rights and children's rights. It also supports unions, offers training, and conducts public advocacy and outreach. LICADHO started with a staff of 10; that has grown to well over 100. Today the organization has a main office in Phnom Penh and subsidiary offices in 13 provinces throughout the country. It has not been an easy road for Kek or LICADHO. Not everyone agrees, for example, that women and children should have rights. Many of the staff have been threatened, sued, or arrested. "Many times," says Kek, "our staff . . . receive threats on the phone asking them whether they want to die, how many bullets do they want, et cetera." Kek herself has had to flee Cambodia several times because of these threats. Still, the child that so many years ago promised to help others has come through. "For me," says Kek, now in her 70's, "human rights are a part of your life—universal and for everybody. We have to stick to that principle. You can't say we'll think of feeding our stomachs first and the rights will come later. We don't negotiate on human rights." Please click on Like This Page at Giraffe Heroes so you can see more great stories. And do Share with friends–we all need enCouragement, right?