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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 18, 2004

Iowa City Students Donate Supplies To Cambodian Children's Hospital

When students in Hoover Elementary School teacher Marlene Johnson's fifth- and sixth-grade classes heard that a University of Iowa education professor was going to Cambodia, they got out their pens, pencils, crayons and notebooks -- and donated them.

In January, Scott McNabb (left), an associate professor in the UI College of Education's department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, and Jim Marshall, the college's associate dean, loaded a suitcase with 50 pounds of donated items and delivered them -- along with $100 raised by Johnson through a bake sale -- to the Angkor Hospital for Children.

The American-run hospital, which treats children from some of the country's poorest regions, will use the materials to teach young patients about health issues and to provide them with entertainment while they wait to be discharged.

This afternoon (Wednesday, Feb. 18), McNabb plans to thank personally Johnson and her classes for their generosity, and to show them a video of his trip. (EDITORS NOTE: Media interested in covering this event, see contact information at end of story.)

"Through their generosity the students at Hoover made our visit to Cambodia very special for Jim and me," McNabb said. "We were able to take the students' contributions to an organization that is working toward the physical and spiritual healing of the country."

McNabb said the donation was inspired by the visit to Iowa City late last year by Arn Chorn-Pond (left), a well known Cambodian human rights activist, former child soldier, Khmer Rouge Killing Fields survivor and subject of the documentary "The Flute Player," which played at the UI's Bijou theater last November. Chorn-Pond is working to preserve Cambodia's traditional music, dance and other forms of his culture virtually wiped out by the Khmer Rouge. A refugee in the United States since 1980, he has worked with Cambodian gangs in Massachusetts and often speaks to young students about his experiences growing up in a war-torn country.

Among the places he visited while in Iowa City last year were the UI campus and Hoover Elementary.

One of Johnson's social studies students, Bjorn Hovland, was so moved by Chorn-Pond's visit and talk that he wrote a poem about the experience. It reads in part, "Your country's call is heard,/And the rest of the world has been lured/To come to your needing aid."

When Chorn-Pond learned that McNabb was planning a trip to Thailand for his research on community colleges there, he invited McNabb to visit him in Cambodia. And when Johnson learned of McNabb's plans, she and her classes offered to collect supplies they thought would be useful to young Cambodians.

"The students at Hoover School realize they can make a difference in the lives of needy children in the world," Johnson said. "The students learned about child labor practices. There are 240 million children engaged in the hazards of child labor in the world."

Another of Johnson's student, Irfon Bhatti, said this about the school's motivation to collect items for Cambodian children: "I think that children should have the supplies needed to attend school or to help them learn."

McNabb says he decided to take the donation to the hospital after he spoke with several other Cambodians connected with Chorn-Pond's work who felt the supplies would be of immediate use by the young patients, who often are at the hospital for several days.

"When we visited the hospital it was clear that the play therapist, Pen Sinth, could make excellent use of the materials," McNabb said. "Through Mrs. Johnson's efforts the Hoover students were able to make a tangible contribution to children in Cambodia, a poverty-stricken country that has been through an extraordinarily difficult time."

He said the money will support Chorn-Pond's ongoing visits to Cambodian villages, where he shows a movie he produced about non-violence and hands out badly needed food.

More information about the documentary about Chorn-Pond can be found online at Information about his visit to the UI last year can be found at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,
MEDIA INTERESTED IN VISITING THE CLASSROOM AT 2 P.M.: Contact Marlene Johnson at Hoover Elementary, 319-688-1863.