Public Service

By The Editors / November / December 2000
October 24th, 2007

Martha Dickie Sharp Cogan ’26

In november 1940 martha Dickie Sharp Cogan boarded the SS Excambion in Lisbon, Portugal, and escorted twenty-seven children and ten adults from Nazi-occupied France to foster homes in the United States—the first World War II transport of European and Russian children to this country. “We were the beneficiaries of an incredible generosity and an almost reckless kindness,” one of the Russian refugees told the Boston Globe at a New York City reunion dinner fifty years later.

As a result of such acts, Cogan and her then-husband, the Rev. Waitstill Hastings Sharp, became known as “the guardian angels of European children.” Working in Prague in 1939, three weeks ahead of the German army, the couple established maternity hospitals for refugees and homes for displaced workers. They also managed to send thousands of refugee children to summer camps for medical and dental care. Through Cogan’s Prague office, in fact, more than 3,500 families emigrated to free countries around the world.

Jane Kates Pincus ’59

In the early 1970s Our Bodies, Ourselves was the first comprehensive health-care guide written by and for women. With its frank discussion of contraception, abortion, natural childbirth, and menstruation, the book placed women’s health in a radically new political and social context.

Since then more than 4 million copies of the guide have been sold in nineteen languages. The book began as the idealistic project of the twelve women who later formed the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Among the twelve was Jane Kates Pincus, who still serves on the collective’s board and who co-edited the 1998 edition of Our Bodies. “We never really meant to write a book,” she says.

The women came together in 1969 to compile a list of good doctors but quickly realized that they should learn more about their own bodies first. Pincus, having just given birth to her second child, wrote about pregnancy. “We discovered,” she recalls, “that we knew things about ourselves that doctors didn’t know. Our great hope was that once we told them about ourselves, they would change and meet our needs.”

Arn Chorn-Pond ‘88

In the killing fields of Cambodia, music cost activist Arn Chorn-Pond his family; then it saved his life. “My family owned an opera,” he says, “and that is why the Khmer Rouge killed them.”

Taken from his parents at the age of eight, Chorn-Pond was held, along with 500 other children, in an abandoned Buddhist temple in Watt Aik. It was his job to play the flute, every day for two years, while the Khmer Rouge executed prisoners.

Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people in Cambodia. Chorn-Pond escaped to Thailand, where he was adopted by an American missionary and taken to New Hampshire. He was sixteen.

As soon as he could speak English, he began talking about his experiences in Cambodia. It was a turning point; Chorn-Pond says that speaking his experience aloud kept him sane. While a student at Brown, he cofounded the Southeast Asian Big Brother/Big Sister Association in Providence and with the help of his foster father began Peacemakers, an organization that helps teenagers get out of gangs.

In 1992 Chorn-Pond returned to Cambodia and founded Volunteers for Community Development, a youth group that now has 60,000 members. His work has earned him the Kohl International Peace Prize and the Anne Frank Human Spirit Award.

Chorn-Pond is now youth program coordinator and director of arts and culture for the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, Massachusetts. He is hiring what he describes as “top notch, legendary” Cambodian musicians to begin teaching their art once again to Cambodian young people.

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November / December 2000