Powerful documentary: CSN Chicago goes distance for sports/real life tale in Cambodia

It isn’t often that a local sports cable channel sends a reporter and crew to another state let alone Cambodia. But this incredible story was more than worth the investment of cash and resources for Comcast Sports Net Chicago.

Airing in two parts on Tuesday and Wednesday (7 p.m. Central), CSN Chicago will debut From the Sports World to the Third World: A Journey to Cambodia. It is the story of what Bulls/Blackhawks/Bears team photographer Bill Smith and Bulls director of ticket operations Joe O’Neil have done to rescue the lives of more than 100 young children in Cambodia.

Smith and O’Neil have taken children who were living in unthinkable poverty in a garbage dump and provided them food, shelter and education through their charity, A New Day for Cambodia.

Please scroll to the end of this video where young girl, who was rescued by Smith and O’Neil, returns to the dump. I mean, powerful isn’t a strong enough word.

Memo to Comcast/NBC executives: Given the connection with Comcast, it would be great if these shows got national exposure on the NBC Sports Network. There is plenty of programming holes with the NHL being shut down. The nation should see this story.

I had chance to talk to CSN Chicago’s Chuck Garfien, who went over to Cambodia to film the documentary.

It is highly unusual, if not unheard of, for a local sports cable outlet to make this commitment. Why did CSN Chicago do it?

I go to spring training, the winter meetings, maybe a few other things. When I’ve told colleagues I went to Cambodia for this project, they were stunned. You just don’t leave the country if you work for a local market outlet.

CSN believed in the story and the storytelling we could do there. That meant a lot to me. When you see this story, you’ll know why.

What did you see?

Being there really drove home the whole thing. You see this garbage dump. Think of the dirtiest place in American and times it by 50, by 100. Bill Smith described it as ‘hell on Earth.’ Families built shacks in and around the dump. Kids were picking garbage for 30 cents a day. The parents didn’t even want them to go to school. They needed them to pick garbage to survive.

You’d see the look in the kids’ eyes. The despair. The light in their eyes was gone. It’s overwhelming.

The good news is that it isn’t an active dump anymore. However, we heard that there’s another dump about 20 miles away. The government said there weren’t any kids in there, but we heard they were. We tried for four days, but they wouldn’t let us in there.

Talk about what Smith and O’Neil have done?

They have rescued more than 100 kids from that garbage dump. They completely transformed their lives. Now instead of their goal being to collect garbage, they want to become doctors and lawyers. One girl wants to be the first female prime minister of Cambodia.

Bill showed the before and after photos of the kids. You can’t believe it. They are giving them a chance for life. You see the light in their eyes. It’s back.








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