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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

World Water Week

My family visited Siem Reap, Cambodia last year and visited the staggeringly beautiful temples of Angkor Wat, awesome sights I never imagined I'd see in this lifetime. Our guide Sothy had the glowing inner peace we saw in so many Buddhists on our trip, despite the horrors he and his countrymen had suffered under the Khmer Rouge. Traveling in Buddhist countries put our western lifestyle in a new perspective for me, and I still reflect on the remarkable calm and kindness of the people we met in Cambodia and Thailand.

But the people of Siem Reap are crushingly poor.

Sothy took my family on a boat trip on a large lake from which we were able to observe a village in the course of its everyday life. We saw the residents washing their clothes on the rocks beside the lake, cooking in their open-air huts and going about their humble business, all with water dipped from the lake which also carried human waste. Both their humanity and their poverty affected us deeply and we came away asking Sothy how an outsider could help his much-abused country.

Most of their physical problems stemmed from poor sanitation, he explained, and a pump in a village could bring hygiene, safer food and improved health. When a village got a water pump, diarrhea dropped almost to zero and child death rates plummeted.

A pump in a village allowed the children, especially girls, to go to school instead of spending their days carrying water from the nearest river. Families could grow gardens and sometimes establish small businesses. My wife, a professor at NKU, has always believed that education is the key to a better life, and it became clear that safe water was the key to getting an education for these people.

We asked, "How much does it cost to install a pump for a village?"

"Very expensive," answered Sothy. "About one hundred American dollars."

We stared at each other. How many hundred dollars have we wasted in our lifetimes? Our new mission was clear. Through the organization Journeys Within Our Community we have been financing wells and scholarships since our return home.

One more story: My stepdaughter Mandi took action then and there. She began buying up the handmade bracelets children sell at every tourist stop, usually ten for a dollar. When Mandi returned home she sold the bracelets at her school for two dollars each and ultimately raised enough money to finance eleven village pumps in Cambodia all by herself.


at 3/12/08, 11:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff. Thanks.

at 3/13/08, 12:17 AM Anonymous BorgFan said...

Great story, Jim!

How can you be sure your donations are used towards water pumps?

I'd like to do some research into this group, if it checks out, I'll gladly make a donation.

Again, thanks for your story.

at 3/13/08, 9:19 AM Blogger gogginguy said...

I give Jim a lot of grief for being short-sighted about a lot of his views, but this is dead on. No one could argue with this.

(I can only hope the light-bulb goes off over his (and other's) head what will happen to the clean water we're bringing/trying to bring to the people of Iraq if we leave now.)

at 3/13/08, 11:27 AM Blogger Philip Shade said...

Every time I see some one with a plastic bottle of water I think how many people could have been saved if they donated the money to a water charity instead.

(Hey goggin, have we managed to get the Iraqi water system to pre-war levels yet? Iraqi's may be better off in the long run, but - boy - have we fudged the last 5 years.)

at 3/13/08, 12:03 PM Blogger Scott Evans said...


The first four years over in Iraq our administrators really screwed up over there, since Patreus has been in charge he is finally doing the things that Bremmer should have been doing from the beginning. I heard an interveiw with a journalist who has been there a few times who stated that Bremmer was trying to re-write tax code in Iraq while there were water and electric shortages among other basic needs. However we still haven't corrected everything, Iraq is running a huge budget surplus due to high oil prices, though we are paying for their complete rebuilding as they aren't agreeing on how to spend the money.

On the water issue Jim, it is a good cause and possibly long term if we can solve some of these small problems early we can avoid the big problems later. Just think if every working America just gave 5 bucks a year towards the $100 water pumps, the problem could be solved very quickly.

at 3/13/08, 12:27 PM Blogger Jim Borgman said...

On the Journeys Within Our Community website, click on Our Projects, borgfan. Donations can be designated for scholarships, water projects, micro business loans, etc. I've established a relationship with Jesse Wolfe, the Cambodia director (a former US Marine who served in Afghanistan) and email regularly with the scholarship recipients we sponsor. Thanks for asking.

at 3/13/08, 1:58 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work Jim

at 3/13/08, 4:16 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just think if every working America just gave 5 bucks a year towards the $100 water pumps, the problem could be solved very quickly...

Just think what the trillions of dollars the bush crime family has wasted on their blood for oil campaign could do if applied for good instead of corporate greed.

at 3/13/08, 10:05 PM Blogger who2 said...

Outstanding!!! Clean accessible water, better life, education, better life. Thanks, Jim, for your action and your information.


at 3/14/08, 3:12 AM Blogger Jesse said...


Thank you for choosing to use your blog as a way of bringing attention to this critical need, not just in Cambodia, but around the developing world.

As the Director of Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) I witness daily the consequences of the extensive lack of access to clean water here in Cambodia. It is estimated that 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal disease with most of those being children (WHO). This is something that is entirely preventable given the right resources.

This is World Water Week but please do not let your awareness of this issue fade after only one week. The need is vast and it will not be solved in a single week.

I would be happy to discuss the issue and its solutions more with anyone who is interested. Feel free to email me at:

at 3/14/08, 4:43 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Borgman,
Thank you and your family for your generosity toward my old country and its people that the world forgotten about many years ago. You story is very touching and sad. My family made it out of Cambodia when I was 10 but I still have vivid memories of that era. I can still hear the thunder, taste the rain and smell the fear of the Khmer Rouge regime. It's hard to believe that Cambodia once a beautiful, modernize country is in ruin and the people still suffering. Only if there are more individuals like you and your daughter, the world would be a much a better place. On behalf of all those individuals touched by your kindness, thank you so much...Ramsey.

at 3/14/08, 9:12 AM Blogger Brian H said...

The lack of clean water is a devestating problem in so many places in the developing world. And it is a root issue for other problems. Check out and see what one local Cincinnati non-profit group, in partnership with a local church, is doing to make a difference. They have the capacity to drill 60-70 wells per year. The first well was commissioned in January. How do you know you money goes to wells? That's why we bought the equipment and hired Nigerians to run it. It is grassroots, on the ground, in the trenches combat against one of the greatest injustices in the modern world.

at 3/14/08, 9:30 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

the USA is trying to legalize prostitution, including child prostituion; US businessmen are the the largest users of child prostituion around the world; truly a global economy

at 3/14/08, 9:31 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many weapons have been sold to Africa under the Bush administration that have blown whole villages away?

at 3/14/08, 9:35 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

why does the Enquirer strip its blogs of comments they don't like?

at 3/14/08, 3:35 PM Anonymous prickles said...

I grew up in Cincinnati and have always been a fan. Now that I'm attending OU, I really appreciate this blog.

Great cartoon - I posted it on my office door.

at 3/14/08, 5:53 PM Blogger Louann and Bari said...

I most appreciate Mandi's contribution. Every time she purchased bracelets at the markets she was immediately contributing to the local economy (usually women). To then sell and return the money sold for purchases of pumps is incredible. She doubles the opportunity to help each family by buying the tourist items and then buying the pumps. Kudos to Mandi.

at 3/15/08, 11:43 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rotary International, has financed the digging and drilling of hundreds of waterwells around the world in the last year, as one of its major efforts. No money is spent on management as the projects are overseen by local Rotarians. I have several photos, that could have been the basis for your cartoon, from our 4recent projects in Zambia which have effected the lives of several thousand people who now have clean water to drink.

at 3/15/08, 11:24 PM Blogger Lisa said...

Middle class america needs to hear these stories.

at 3/16/08, 11:50 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly a wonderful cause.
However, think about how many wells could be drilled for 1 months money wasted in Iraq - by my calculations, it's (12 billion / $100/well =) 120 million wells per month.
Mind boggling!

at 3/17/08, 7:56 AM Blogger JessicaA said...

great cartoon!

go to

for info on a cincinnati based non-profit who is making an impact drilling water wells and bringing clean water to nigeria. it's a grassroots effort and you know where your money goes!! amazing!

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