FORMER US cruise ship comedian Ray Carr washed up in Siem Reap last week as part of the advance guard of the Humanitourism Project, a new initiative aimed at putting Siem Reap NGOs in touch with wealthy US donors.
Carr’s involvement in the project follows a colourful 10-year career as a cruise ship comedian, which at one point saw him invoke a failed defamation lawsuit stemming from an incident where he was disciplined for leaving an ice sculpture of a giant penis in the cabin of a co-worker.
Carr told 7Days his visit comes ahead of the arrival of the first group of 12 to15 Humanitourism Project participants in December, who will each spend two weeks working with NGOs in Siem Reap before returning to the US to fundraise on their behalf. “There’s a whole group of Americans with middle-to-high incomes who want to be involved in this kind of work but don’t know how to make the first step. We’re offering a conduit by bringing them over here and introducing them to the various NGOs.
“Every person who signs up is going to make one of these organisations their project for a year, and they’re going to be in competition to raise the most funds for their NGO.”
Before founding the Humanitourism Project along with Canadian documentary filmmaker Dick Tolton in late 2010, Carr worked for more than 10 years in the cruise ship industry holding a variety of on-board entertainment positions.
Before arriving in Siem Reap, Carr served aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, The Norwegian Gem, before leaving in February prior to the scheduled end of the voyage.
His departure has alternately been described on the online forum Cruise Critic.com by Carr and Norwegian Cruise Line officials as a resignation due to a personality clash or a termination.
When asked about his career, Carr explained he had served on several ocean liners in a variety of roles including as a cruise director, a management position with responsibility for overseeing all on-board passenger entertainment programs.
While Carr has not ruled out returning to comedy, he told 7Days his new job as a volunteer group coordinator is emotionally rewarding due to the role he can play in educating Americans about Cambodia and Southeast Asia.
“Many North Americans are uneducated about what took place in Vietnam and Cambodia, the atrocities, the genocide and the ongoing threat of mines. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we’re never educated about it. This all happened in my lifetime, I was alive when this was going on but I didn’t know about it.”
Targeting professionals aged between 25 and 45, The Humanitourism Project is described by Carr as offering an “education, not a vacation”, with participants asked to pay $1200 to cover their accommodation and travel costs while working with their chosen NGO.
While staying in Siem Reap, Carr said Humanitourism participants will commute to their chosen NGO using imported 4x4 vehicles, which Carr describes as a cross between a golf cart and a dirt bike.
Carr, who met with representatives from various local NGOs including New Hope, Trailblazers and ABC’s and Rice during his stay, said his visit was important in building relationships with local officials including the Apsara Authority.
At the end of his two-week stay in Siem Reap, Carr said he felt inspired by the work he had seen done at local NGOs, and like earlier visits to Cambodia, leaves with the desire to come back and help.
“I was adopted when I was young and I feel like someone gave me a chance, so if I can help someone else access the same opportunities as I’ve had … that’s very important to me.”