Hans van Zoggel taught English in his early 20s when he first met Cambodian refugees in The Netherlands. He was barely out of college and jobs were hard to come by but he left home for the Thai border camps where he succeeded in putting his students in touch with their relatives.
He was also struck by their plight – refugees and internally displaced people huddling in a mishmash of shabby huts and surrounded by the Khmer Rouge. He stayed and went to work in the camps where he prepped those lucky enough to be accepted as refugees for a life in the United States.
The early 1980s were a difficult time. The Vietnamese had only just ousted Pol Pot from power and his Khmer Rouge had settled in for a civil war that would last nearly two decades. The poverty was intense and van Zoggel built a life around helping the victims of war.