I write to address the letter signed "Rocket Scientist" which appeared
in the October 20-November 2, 1995, issue under the headline "USAID the forum
While I certainly agree that Rocket Scientist is entitled to his or her opinion,
I take exception with several of his or her comments.
I taught two sections of Introduction to Business Law to fourth year undergraduate
students at the University of Phnom Penh under a USAID funded program for five months
The vast majority of the ninety students I personally taught, as well as the 190
students directly impacted by the program, were thrilled with the program. The students'
enthusiasm went far beyond the classroom: they responded by inviting the instructors
to weddings and parties and into their homes.
In my opinion, these students and many others like them "would be hurt if we
stopped giving aid to NGOs."
Although I was paid to teach, after factoring in the cost of the job I gave up to
go to Cambodia and the difficulty I have had finding employment since my return,
I actually lost money. I did not drive around in a $35,000 vehicle; I rode a bicycle.
I did live in what Rocket Scientist would probably call a villa, although that seemed
an appropriate housing decision on short notice for five people with no prior knowledge
of the market. Plus we paid for it ourselves.
Rocket Scientist states the Khmer people "receive your pocket change for salaries
that force them to live in homes that flood or leak every time it rains, while they
struggle to meet their needs for food, shelter, health care and love." This
statement bears no relationship to my experience.
I handled our household accounts and know we paid very fair salaries. We also provided
living accommodatons. We paid for English lessons. We included our staff in evening
and weekend outings. We provided one month's severance pay when we left. And we hugged
and cried when we parted.
Rocket Scientist's observation that USAID spending has done more to benefit my bank
account than Khmer lives is simply not true.
- David J. Clark, Martinez, California, USA