The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Whatever happened to… / The Amish tuk tuk drivers of Siem Reap?

By: Tom O'Connell - Posted on: February 27, 2019 | Cambodia

Back in 2011, a reporter from the Phnom Penh Post was visiting Siem Reap when something strange caught his eye: two white guys driving tuk tuks. Southeast Asia Globe tracked down the boys of Coshocton, Ohio, to see what they’ve been up to since the Post interviewed them in a bar in Siem Reap

A tuk-tuk rides past the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh
Tuk tuks are a common transport option in Cambodia Photo: Mak Remissa / EPA

What started as a beautiful dream involving a pair of tuk tuks and the two American brothers who owned them – who happen to be members of the Amish Mennonite faith – has transformed into a mission to bring clean water to rural communities across Cambodia.

Sadly, what originally brought John and Ken Gingerich to the attention of Cambodians is no more. They first arrived in Siem Reap in 2010 as missionaries for their Sugar Creek Church back in the American Midwest to found a local chapter of the South East Asia Prayer Centre. Ken was 20 and John was just 16 at the time. After their church ran out of money for their mission in 2013, they sold their tuk tuks and returned to the US to work – and now that they’re back, they credit those tuk tuks with helping them in their mission to gain converts to their faith and help their humanitarian efforts.

“Because we didn’t have enough money to buy a car, we bought the tuk tuks,” said Ken. They found decent used ones that needed only minor repairs for $1,200 apiece, as the Post reported. “It was a great way to start out because it puts you on the same level as the majority of the Cambodian people. They look at us wondering why we drive that and not a big Land Rover. It makes a great opportunity to open up a conversation and you’re able to make friends easier.” It also helped that they had quickly become fluent in Khmer, though they admit they are still learning.

Ken Gingerich in Cambodia

The Gingeriches used their tuk tuks to transport people and things to and from the Centre, but didn’t take fares. When Post reporter Michael Sloan spotted them driving near Siem Reap’s Old Market, he flagged down one of them and asked for an interview.

When we spoke to them eight years later, the brothers had returned to Siem Reap for just a short time before heading back to Ohio to earn more money working blue-collar jobs to help them continue their water well drilling project. Ken started a family during their first stint in Cambodia, marrying a Khmer woman with whom he had a baby, with another on the way. The paperwork to bring the family back and forth is daunting, he said, but the brothers are driven to pursue their dream.

John and Ken became involved in their massive undertaking to bring clean water to remote communities around Cambodia two years after arriving to do missionary work. The existing water well drilling technology available in 2012 when they first got involved was fine for the sandy soil around Siem Reap province, they said – it was basically a hand drill that could be twisted 100 feet into the earth. But when they hit rockier soil, they needed something better.

The brothers are working with an NGO to drill for water

So they rented a machine and then started building a prototype based on that device that could better handle rocky soil. They’re currently working with an NGO and seeking funding to expand their efforts.

“It’s quite exhilarating work when you drill a well in a place where they don’t have any water or they have a small pond of dirty water and then you produce a well, get the water up to the top and it’s amazing, the joy that these people have with clean water now,” said Ken.

The brothers’ vision for the South East Asia Prayer Centre was to gain converts while teaching valuable life skills. During their time in Cambodia, they say they’ve helped convert eight to nine families, or around 27 people total, to the Amish Mennonite religion. Ken estimates there to be around 40 American Amish Mennonites in Cambodia, and around 100 total including Cambodian converts. Amish Mennonites are a reformed offshoot of the Old Order Amish in America, whose religion forbids them to use modern technology – they are popularly known for driving horse-and-buggies.

John describes his faith as “living out the Bible as best as we know it.” So how does that translate in a Buddhist culture, and how does one avoid offending locals while trying to convert them?

“What we ran into especially in villages is that some people would say that if you became Christian, it means you don’t respect your elders or the culture anymore or the Buddhist religion,” said Ken. “It’s all based on building a relationship with them, gaining their trust. We don’t disrespect another religion or them or their upbringing or their culture… I’ve seen other [missionaries] try to move very quickly and make a lot of converts in a very short time – it doesn’t work.”

They tend to focus their efforts on the poorest Cambodians.

“There are a lot of Cambodians we have gotten to know who were very poor so they were relying on the Buddhist religion to help pull them through their dire situations,” said Ken. “Some of them were involved with some witchcraft because they weren’t very healthy and were trying to get better. For example, one of the guys that did well drilling with us, his mother was very sick often and about once a month she’d have this weird spell come upon her where she had serious pain and she barely would be able to breathe.”

Jon Gingerich in Cambodia

The brothers claim that their spiritual work has brought their converts a new freedom and even a measure of prosperity. It was only fair to ask if they had incorporated anything from Buddhism or Cambodian culture into their own lives.

“The idea of taking time to be consistent and meditate more upon things,” said Ken.

“They have this ideology of not rushing so much,” said John. “Our culture where we come from is very driven, it’s one of those things that can be a good thing and can be a bad thing. We can learn from some of their culture. It’s been interesting.”

They hope to have their prototype completed and get back to drilling in the countryside in a month or two. But for now, their tuk tuk dream is a “been there/done that” – though one gets the feeling that they miss those early wild days learning to ride them and hanging around other tuk tuk drivers.

The brothers chose the school of learning by doing.

“[We] basically jumped on and went,” said Ken. “Start out with an empty one for sure before you put any weight in it, because it just gets harder from there. Tuk tuk culture can be very challenging. It’s somewhat dangerous while you’re transporting people or items. You’re out there on a little motorcycle pulling a big trailer, and you have to be strong up here in your arms, doesn’t matter how long your legs are.”