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									                          EPISODE 9

       Maryknoll World
Study Guide and Educator Notes

                    EPISODE 9
                  the Blind
                   to “See
                  With Their
                     Maryknoll Missioner
                       Father John Barth
     (Burma)       La
                     os           South China Sea


                   PHNOM PENH


 Indian Ocean

       Official name: Kingdom of Cambodia
       Population: 11,339,562 (1998)
       Age distribution: (%) <15: 45.4; 65+ yrs: 3.0
       Population density: 162 per sq. mi.
       Urban: 21%
       Ethnic groups: Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1 %
       Language(s): Khmer (official), French
       Religion(s): Theravada Buddhism 95%
       Area: 69,900 sq. mi., slightly smaller than Oklahoma
       Capital: Phnom Penh (1994 estab.)
       Government: Constitutional monarchy
       Currency: Riel
       Gross domestic product: $7.7 billion, $710 per capita (1996)
       Life expectancy at birth: 45.6 male; 49.4 female
       Infant mortality: 107 per 1,000 live births
       Education: Compulsory ages 6-12
       Literacy rate: 65% (1993)
       National holiday: November 9th, Independence Day (1953)

       Web site:

Objectives (Part 1):
   • To understand the history of Cambodia and the legacy of wars
     on the lives of the people.
   • To examine the reasons for widespread blindness in Cambodia.
   • To explore a missoner’s work to rehabilitate blind Cambodians.

Focusing Activities Before Viewing:
   • Have students locate Cambodia and surrounding countries on a globe
     or map. Ask students to research the demographics of Cambodia, using
     the Internet, encyclopedias, almanacs, etc.

Exploring Activities After Viewing:
   • The video shows Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, bustling with new
     construction, big hotels and heavy traffic—all hopeful signs of prosperity
     to a casual observer. Cambodia today, however, is still racked by a history
     of wars which devastated the country’s infrastructure and people’s lives.
     Assign groups of students to research and report on periods of Cambodian
     history, including wars and governmental changes, dating back to the
     1st century AD.
   • After Cambodian Communists (called the Khmer Rouge) took control
     of the country in 1975, foreign trade was almost nonexistent outside of
     Eastern block countries. Ask students how the ensuing scarcity of food
     and medicine affected Cambodians like Ung Sothi. Why is a proper diet
     essential for healthy eyes? What is the importance of Vitamin A ? What
     foods contain Vitamin A?
   • John Barth, a Maryknoll Missioner and Catholic priest confronts the
     problem of wide-scale blindness among Cambodians. He establishes
     a school for the blind and adopts a twofold plan to deal directly with
     the problem: The first concerns the traditional agenda of reading and
     writing in Braille; the second concerns means that would enable blind
     people to find gainful employment. Have students research and report on
     the reading and writing system developed by the Frenchman, Louis Braille
     (1809-1852). Ask students to recall the technical skills taught by the school
     that would enable blind students to become independent wage earners.

Objectives (Part 2):
   • To explore the impact of the school founded for blind Cambodians.
   • To explore the impact of the rural hospital founded for eye patients.
   • To examine reasons for a shortage of eye-care facilities in Cambodia.

Focusing Activities Before Viewing:
   • Have students take notes during the video concerning the status
     of medical facilities relating to eye problems in the area of Phnom Penh.

Exploring Activities After Viewing:
   • From a small beginning, the school for the Rehabilitation for Blind
     Cambodians (RBC) has grown to require a staff of 39 people. Ask students
     to imagine what the lives of Ung Sothi and other graduates would be like
     without the opportunity to acquire skills needed to achieve independence
     and earn a living.
   • Only two hospitals outside Phnom Penh have eye-care departments. The
     problem of eye disease and blindness is most acute in rural areas. In just
     two months after opening, the basic eye-care hospital in rural Cambodia
     treated almost 600 patients. Ask students to discuss the importance of
     the hospital and its program to educate patients and their families to help
     prevent eye disease.
   • Formal education was abandoned under the Khmer Rouge regime in
     favor of political indoctrination in agricultural communes. Educated
     Cambodians were killed or exiled, leaving universities and medical schools
     bereft of professors. The rural hospital is fortunate to have an eye-care
     specialist, Doctor Andy Pyott, who treats patients and trains Cambodian
     doctors in hands-on practical experience missing from their prior
     education. Have students recall elements of this training.

Objectives (Part 3):
   • To broaden students’ understanding of a commitment to mission.
   • To comprehend the situation of Vietnamese in Cambodia.
   • To further examine the impact of a missoner’s caring and faith.

Focusing Activities Before Viewing:
   • Have students take notes on Father John’s dual roles in the video.

Exploring Activities After Viewing:
   • John says he wears two hats in Cambodia. From Monday to Friday,
     he works for and with blind Cambodians. On weekends, he brings
     the Sacraments to rural villagers. Ask students to reflect on how
     John fulfills his commitment and practices his faith in both roles.
   • Vietnamese immigrants have lived in Cambodia, a Buddhist country,
     for generations. They are the largest majority of Catholics in Cambodia.
     The video explains the reasons why these Vietnamese are harassed and
     discriminated against. Ask students to recall the reasons.
   • John finds resources that transform ideas into realities: A German
     ecumenical group assists in founding a school; Buddhist monks provide
     a site for a school; instructors from Cambodia, Great Britain and the
     United States teach the blind; a Scottish doctor makes a rural hospital
     possible and educates people in blindness prevention. Have students
     compare John’s mission to the ancient Chinese proverb that it is more
     important to teach a man to fish than to give him fish to eat.

Related Activities/Suggestions:
   1. Have students review and report on the movie, The Killing Fields.
   2. Assign a paper on the root causes of blindness.
   3. Schedule a visit to a local chapter of Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Educator Notes
Part 1
At first glance Phnom Penh looks like many Asian capitals with traffic jamming
streets, a frenzy of new construction and rapid growth overwhelming the city’s
infrastructure. Buildings going up, big hotels and new cars give visitors a sense
of prosperity. However, “Cambodia is like a facade,” says John Barth, a Maryknoll
Missioner and Catholic priest. For struggling people like Ung Sothi, age 21,
everything goes back to the effects of the war. Sothi has been blind since age three,
a casualty of a war he was too young to remember.

The Vietnam War spread into Cambodia in the early 1970s. U.S. forces bombed
Vietcong hiding across Cambodian borders. Thousands of civilians became
refugees. A Maoist guerrilla group, called the Khmer Rouge, emerged from the
chaos. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge controlled the government for four brutal
years and attempted to turn Cambodia into a totally agrarian economy. People
were forced out of cities to work in the countryside. Nearly two million
Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge regime. Tens of thousands of people
were executed or died of overwork, disease and starvation.

Born during the Khmer Rouge regime, Sothi was malnourished and suffered
a severe Vitamin A deficiency, conditions common to most of the population.
Children’s eyes were very weak and medicine was scarce. At the same time that
Sothi became blind from a case of measles at age three, the Khmer Rouge killed
his father. Sothi felt like a burden to his widowed mother, no matter how hard
he tried to help her.

With support from Maryknoll and a German ecumenical group, John Barth
opened a school, RBC (Rehabilitation for Blind Cambodians). Located at Wat
Saravon, a Buddhist temple, the school first taught blind musicians and then
branched out to teach massage therapy. Students learn anatomy and physiology,
memorizing by touch the bones and muscles of the human body. Few students
have prior schooling, so they are trained to read and write the Khmer and English
languages in Braille. One of the school’s first graduate masseurs, Sothi found
the means to relieve some of his mother’s hardships.

Part 2
Eye disease and blindness are widespread, but only two hospitals outside Phnom
Penh have eye-care departments. John worked with the Ministry of Health
to create a rural hospital for eye patients and to train Cambodian nurses and
doctors. A Scottish eye specialist, Doctor Andy Pyott, trains Cambodian doctors
in procedures that were unavailable to them in medical school, since the Khmer
Rouge had not only destroyed Cambodia’s universities, but also either killed
or exiled professors.

Facilities in the hospital are basic. A generator provides electricity. Surgical
instruments are sterilized in a vegetable steamer. Nevertheless, the outcome
for cataract patients is comparable to that of patients in European and American

John and Andy realize the need for education to prevent eye disease through
proper eye care and diet. They plan a demonstration garden where patients and
their families can learn to grow fruits and vegetables needed for strong, healthy
eyes. John seeks to find resources for the garden. He also oversees the funding,
staff and facilities that make the rehabilitation program run smoothly.

Part 3
Many Vietnamese people have lived in Cambodia for generations. After centuries
of conflict between the neighboring countries, Cambodians are suspicious of
the Vietnamese who often suffer discrimination. On weekends, John goes into
the villages to counsel and provide the sacraments for Vietnamese Catholics in

John’s commitment as a missoner and Catholic priest is also a covenant to stand
with needy people, helping to develop their physical as well as spiritual lives.
John says he can’t talk about his God to people if they are hungry, they have no
medicine, and they have been abused by the system. John helps them where they
are. He reflects on foreigners who have come to Cambodia with dreams, energy
and enthusiasm, only to go home disappointed. John says “I don’t think I could
have made it this far if I didn’t have faith and a prayer life . . . I felt this is where
I would be most useful.”

Selected Bibliography:
     Chandler, D.P., The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics,
     War and Revolution Since 1945 (1992).
     Ebihara, al eds.,Cambodian Culture Since 1975 (1994).
     Hamer, C.M. The Compassionate Community: Strategies That Work for the
     Third Millinnium (1998). Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1-800-258-5838
     Kamm, H., Cambodia: Report from a Stricken Land (1998).
     Martin, M.A., Cambodia, A Shattered Society, trans. by McLeod, M.W. (1994).
     The World Guide 1999/2000, New Internationalist Publications Ltd.
Related Videos:
     Asia Close-Up (28 minutes, 1996) $16.95
     Two-part video portrays a Japanese schoolgirl and a Cambodian boy
     who lost his leg to a land mine.
     Maryknoll World Productions 1-800-227 8523
     Phnom Penh, Cambodia (22 minutes) $9.95
     A video in The Field Afar series that deals with the rehabilitation
     of Cambodian land mine victims.
     Maryknoll World Productions: 1-800-227-8523
     Beyond the Killing Fields (25 minutes) $14.95
     Recounts Cambodia’s destructive history and international efforts
     to rebuild the country.
     Maryknoll World Productions: 1-800-227-8523

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                  Maryknoll, NY 10545-0308
                     FAX: 914-762-6567
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