When I was a little boy, I prayed every night, "Please help all the poor people in the world to be rich!" By this, I meant, for all people to be safe and to have their bellies full as mine. My heroes were Tom Dooley and Albert Schweitzer, both "jungle doctors".
Years later, I finished my residency as a medical doctor and went off to refugee camps in Thailand. I was responsible for the health of half a million people living there: Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese. I quickly learned that health for the people of the world is not about doctors and hospitals, but all about peace, food, education, and public policy. I went back home to Hawaii to get a masters degree in public health.
In 1989, I created the World Family Foundation in Cambodia. We found adoptive families for 800 orphans, built schools, and funded projects to educate women and girls. I put most of the money I inherited from my family into the Foundation – first a million dollars, and then a few years ago the remaining $350,000 of my stock portfolio. Looking back, I wish we had focused more on helping businesses run by women: I learned that money that goes to male-run projects often gets spent on drinking, gambling, and sex, while money going to projects run by women usually strengthens families and communities.
The work in Cambodia continues – oral health for the orphanages, and adult literacy for women. In the 2 years since I didn't die in the tsunami (swimming in Thailand!), I have traveled extensively with humanitarian missions: twice to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Tibet, East Timor, to Central America with the "Flying Doctors", and to South America where I funded an environmental-education center for indigenous youth in Ecuador, the first of its kind in the Amazon.
Now I'm home for awhile, caring for my elderly mama, recharging my
batteries, and pondering where to put my energies next.