For most people, Third World hunger is an unfortunate situation that happens on the other side of the globe, with little impact on our comfortable conditions here in the Pacific Northwest. However, for Positive Life Radio, Walla Walla University's Christian contemporary music station, the problem is of special importance.
For three days this week, the staff of Positive Life Radio, which includes several student workers and local volunteers, accepted telephone calls from listeners throughout the Inland Northwest who pledged financial support to purchase rice for the impoverished citizens of Cambodia -- a nation where 35 percent of the population live in poverty and almost half the female population is illiterate.
Positive Life Radio is a family of stations in Eastern Washington, and their signal also reaches deep into Oregon and Idaho--good news for those involved in the event, as station staff hoped to reach as many listeners as possible. The pledge drive, which is appropriately titled, "Rice for Cambodia," was held Wednesday, Thursday and this morning, and was broadcast live from the station office on the first floor of the Canaday Technology Center.
This is the ninth year that Positive Life Radio is raising money for the people of Cambodia, and several student workers were excited to share their thoughts on the impact of the event.
"I love Rice for Cambodia," said Becka Hanan, a WWU student announcer at Positive Life Radio. "It reminds me of how fortunate I am to have so much."
"I'm not a millionaire," she continued. "But I'm not living in dirt. What we give to the people down there is hope. Hope that someone is coming to save them and in the meantime, there's people out there willing to fill in the blanks by being generous enough to feed them."
Positive Life Radio was joined in the studio by Setan Lee, founder of TransformAsia -- a charity that works in Southeast Asia that has built a training school, a women's center, an orphanage, and a trade school for the people of the region. Lee, who miraculously escaped the Killing Fields massacre during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, shared his story on the airwaves and invited listeners to share what ever they can afford.
Lee shared what it was like when he was a victim of starvation, "I was starving every day, and not just hungry, but so hungry you're ears are ringing."
"Cambodians are a very smart, gentle people," Lee said. "It's just a matter of having no choice or freedom, when they have no freedom, there is nothing they can do."
"One of their greatest needs is hunger," he continued. "Rice for Cambodia meets that need. As soon as they fill their stomach, their heart is rejoicing and it opens a door for gospel workers to share Christ."
In a joint effort with Musicianaries, an evangelistic and mission organization that frequently travels outside the United States, and TransformAsia, Positive Life Radio, through their charitable donations and uplifting music, attempted to "feed both the physical and spiritual emptiness felt by so many in Cambodia."
While fluctuations in price caused by recent typhoons in Southeast Asia are to be expected, according to statistics found on its Web site, Positive Life Radio estimates that a ton of rice, which can be purchased with a $400 pledge, will feed between 160 and 240 people for a month.
For many people, especially the staff and department family at Positive Life Radio, the Rice for Cambodia event is synonymous with the life and work of Musicianaries founder Bobby Michaels, who died last March. However, those who knew Michaels well plan to carry on his work this year, continuing to help and minister to the people of Cambodia.
Susan Griffin, a senior accounting major and assistant programming director at Positive Life Radio, was excited about the pledge drive but was understandable saddened at the prospect of a campaign without Michaels.
"I loved listening to Bobby's stories of how God took care of the people of Cambodia," Griffin explained. "They allowed us to connect with God on a deep personal level. Though Bobby is no longer with us, God has continued to work through many others to help feed and share the love of God to the people of Cambodia."
For more information about Rice for Cambodia or to contribute, call Positive Life Radio at 1-800-355-4757, stop by its campus office, or visit the station Web site at www.plr.org.