Hundreds packed the first floor of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday, March 27, as Global Playground hosted its third annual Washington, DC event. This year's event celebrated Global Playground's project openings in Uganda, Cambodia, and Thailand, and its upcoming endeavor in Honduras. Those present ranged from infant Hannah Ng to ninety-three year old Violet Branagan and all those in between, including students from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, attorneys and staff from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, representatives from Students Helping Honduras, alums of the College of William & Mary, and many other family and friends, some of whom traveled across the country and along the eastern seaboard to be present on Friday evening.
Among the treats of the night, not the least of which was the wonderful Thai food delicately prepared by Naovarat Branagan, those in attendance enjoyed the magical khim and kluy music of Pia Puatrakul and Noi Leekmek and the mesmerizing performances of Cambodian Master Dancers Suteera Nagavajara and Sochietah Ung from Cambodian-American Heritage, Inc., a nonprofit striving to preserve Cambodian art and culture in the United States. Those present were privileged to witness the Robaim Monosanchetana, an expressive and sentimental dance portraying an ornate royal courtship ritual and the sadness brought about by the separation of two lovers.
Sochietah Ung, who survived the genocide at the hands of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime in the mid-1970s, has been a master dancer since 1989 and is responsible for the elaborate costumes. Suteera Nagavajara has been studying and performing Cambodian classical dance since 2003 and is co-founder of the Somapa Thai Dance Company in Washington, DC.
Global Playground was also honored by the presence of dignitaries from the Thai, Ugandan, and Honduran embassies. Damrong Kraikruan, Charge d'Affaires of the Royal Thai Embassy, stressed the importance the Thai government places on education, highlighting that a sizable portion of his country's GDP is dedicated to education. Kraikruan also extended a heartfelt thanks to Global Playground for providing such a vital educational resource in the form of a library dedicated this past January in northern Thailand. Wendy Rivera, First Secretary, and Kay Gaekel, Second Secretary, of the Embassy of Honduras likewise expressed their thanks to Global Playground for its work around the world and evinced their excitement at the prospect of a Global Playground project in Honduras.
Michael Karugaba, Second Secretary of the Embassy of Uganda, repeatedly lauded Global Playground for mobilizing "youngsters," a reference to the many young professionals serving on Global Playground's board of directors and advisory committee, and in its worldwide network of volunteers. Secretary Karugaba, to the utter delight of those present, invoked Charles Dickens in his thanks to Global Playground. He acknowledged the broad and important impact Global Playground has had in his country's Waikiso district, but did not want "to be like Oliver Twist extending his bowl for more."
The evening was filled with similar charming conversation, wine, song and dance, and gourmet cuisine, not to mention the warm feelings of those who opened their hearts for Global Playground's mission. May we all be Oliver Twist in extending our bowls for more support to raise awareness and share resources with people of the developing world to create educational opportunities where they do not exist.
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