July 4, 2013 in Washington Voices

Cambodia honors Positive Life Radio

Campaign has raised more than $1.3 million
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Ernest Beck, program director for Positive Life Radio, distributes rice in Cambodia in May.
(Full-size photo)

For 14 years, listeners of Positive Life Radio have supported the station’s Rice for Cambodia campaign. In May, that generosity was recognized by the Cambodian government.

Program director Ernest Beck traveled to Cambodia to accept the Royal Order of Sahametrei, a medal conferred primarily on foreigners who have rendered distinguished services to the king and to the people of Cambodia. The medal has five classes, the station received level three, commander.

Rice for Cambodia began after Kevin Krueger, the station’s general manager, had a conversation with the late Christian musician Bobby Michaels, who’d returned from a trip to Cambodia.

When Michaels spoke of the poverty and hunger he’d witnessed, it resonated with Krueger and the fundraising campaign was launched.

“This country has been devastated,” Krueger said. “The need goes back to the 1970s and Pol Pot’s ethnic cleansing. The country is still trying to come back from that.”

Each November, Positive Life Radio devotes two and a half days to the Rice for Cambodia campaign. Listeners have donated more than $1.3 million during the past 14 years. Those funds have purchased about 3,435 tons of rice. Each ton feeds about 40 families of four to six for a month, so the campaign has provided enough rice to feed an estimated 687,000 people for one month.

All of the funds given during the on-air fundraiser go to buy rice and deliver it to distribution points. All overhead and management expenses are paid for with other donations.

Staff members and listeners travel to Cambodia in early summer each year to help deliver the rice. “A huge portion of the population eats only one meal every couple days,” Krueger said. “Some walk for an entire day to reach the rice distribution points.”

He said he believes the campaign has been so successful because people can relate to helping with such a basic need.

Even so, he’s been amazed by the continued giving. “I’m humbled by how generous listeners have been over the years,” he said. “This award actually is a recognition of the people in our community.”

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