In 2004, I was introduced to Vanny (or Ny as we called him) - a 40-year old Cambodian man, who had been hired to drive for us. The first day we met, I really liked him. He was someone who knew how to work hard, was disciplined, and was a man of integrity.
When we moved to Cambodia he and I would go to coffee every morning. He would help me with my Khmer language and I would help him with English. We would talk about family, life, and work. We laughed a lot at the plight of humanity and the struggles of Cambodia. He was a joy to be with.
We also worked together. Ny was capable of so much more than driving, so we promoted him to the Director of Security and Facilities. We worked together on establishing ARC, we did family assessments, went to court with clients, and even argued over issues.
Ny came from a litany of hard circumstances. He watched his father murdered under the Khmer Rouge, fought as a child soldier against Vietnam in the 1980's, and suffered a number of financial difficulties in his youth. And yet, through it all, Ny was always positive about life and work. He came to work with a smile and a great attitude.
On top of that, we had grown to love each other. Athena and I were paying for his daughter to attend private school and English lessons. Ny had become very protective of my family and insisted on sleeping on my couch when I was out of town to make sure they were safe. As well, I was addicted to Vietnamese coffee, so Ny would ensure that my coffee was always waiting for me in the morning - no matter what!
I could spend pages describing the times we had together, the love he showed me and our family always, and the commitment to our friendship. Even after we had formed TCI, Ny would spend his off hours helping me with administrative things and driving me around. In October we spent a couple of days together. We said we would get together in November when I returned from Indonesia, but it would never happen.
While consulting on a project in Indonesia, I received a call from Athena that Ny was sick and in the hospital. Within a couple of days, the doctors discovered that Ny had AIDS. Within the span of the next two days, Ny died from this horrible disease. The grief from the loss of my friend has been very heavy and I have struggled with how to live with his absence.
After I returned from Indonesia, I went to Ny's grave site with his wife and nephew. It was a time to console them and to ensure that they knew the love and commitment to our friendship. We will continue to help support their children and honor the friendship in any way that we are capable. Cambodia has experienced yet another loss of a wonderful person who was committed to changing the world. He is a dear friend, deeply missed.