Source: The Houston Chronicle
Wire Service: AP
When residents of this poor, Cambodian village need something built, they call on the Lightmans.
The Jewish-American family's latest gift: a mosque.
"We never had such a beautiful mosque in our village," said 81-year-old Leb Sen, a toothless, village elder with a wrinkled face.
Flashing a broad grin, Leb Sen brought his palms together and bowed repeatedly in gratitude toward his American donors — Alan Lightman; his wife, Jean Greenblatt Lightman and their daughter, Elyse.
Alan Lightman, a 59-year-old humanities professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said building the mosque was not part of his family's original plan to improve education in the village, about 44 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.
"It's too much to comprehend. We never imagined that we would build a mosque in a remote village in Cambodia," said Lightman, author of the best-selling novel "Einstein's Dreams."
"It was so strange for us to be there," he added, " ... halfway across the planet, and it's a religion that's far from our religion."
The Lightmans first learned about the village in 2003, when a friend introduced them to various rural education projects. Two years later, the Harpswell Foundation, an organization founded by Lightman to help children and young women in developing countries, built a four-room concrete school, the village's first.