When I was in Phnom Penh a couple years ago I tried to avoid visiting the killing fields and the still horrific site of Security Prison 21, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The thought of being a tourist gawking at another country’s genocidal past repulsed me. Thank God my phenomenal local guide took me aside when I broke down at the entrance of the museum, and – while offering me a Kleenex – shared her own family’s story of life under the Khmer Rouge regime. She quietly convinced me to stop being a wimpy, spoiled foreigner and try facing up to the evil and shame we all share as members of the human race. Her family lived through this hell, the least I could do was take an hour or two to try to comprehend it.
Don’t forget. Heal. My guide taught by example. As does Rithevit Tep, the Secretary General of the Cambodian Tennis Federation. He’s launched a campaign to revive his country’s once thriving tennis culture that was destroyed, like most everything else, during Pol Pot’s reign of terror. The October edition of CNN’s Open Court program, which begins airing this week, tells the story of Tep’s Tennis Court Foundation.
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Doubles star Leander Paes recently became the goodwill ambassador and spokesperson for the From Killing Fields to Tennis Courts project. He attended the Foundation’s kick off event at the historic Angkor Wat temple site and showed off his net skills on an artificial grass court similar to those being built in the land mine effected areas.
“The Killing Fields to Tennis Courts project is just the mission I have been searching for all these years,” Paes said (via the ATP website). “This is a cause that allows me to give back to the sport that has given me so much.”