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From the good life to digging up land mines in Cambodia

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He and Jill went to Cambodia to look for Aki Ra, but no one would admit that they'd heard of him. Undaunted, Morse finally found Aki Ra at the old Landmine Museum not far from the historical ruins at Angkor Wat.

"I spent the whole day there. It was fairly rustic," Morse recalls. "He'd charge people a dollar and would use that to go out and dig up more mines. There were 18 children, land mine victims, living with him and his wife, too.

"I told him I wanted to help, and he actually rolled his eyes at me. Apparently he'd heard that before."

That conversation changed Morse's life.

"When we first met I thought he was only a normal tourist," Aki Ra says. "When he said he wanted to help, I thought, 'Many people say that, and then they go home.' But Bill always does what he promises."

Back home, Morse set up a charity to raise funds for Aki Ra's work. But his involvement kept growing. In 2006 Aki Ra got into trouble with Cambodian authorities over his unconventional methods and his inconvenient mentions of Cambodia's bloody history in front of the growing numbers of tourists. He was thrown into jail. The museum was shut down.

Morse was "over and back [to Cambodia] like a rubber ball trying to deal with it all," Jill recalls. Slowly, it was dawning on Morse that home was no longer California.

"In 2009, we were back in the States, and Jill asked me if I'd thought about staying [in Cambodia]," Morse says. "I said 'yes,' but I hadn't the nerve to bring it up." That was that. They rented out their house, brought the dog with them on a plane, and haven't looked back.

"I said to myself, 'I can either help rich people make more money, or I can help people in Cambodia.' And the people here [in Cambodia], they're just wonderful. Especially the young: They're doing the most amazing things.

"And Aki Ra, you know he could have walked away after all the conflict ended, gone off and started his life with his wife [who died three years ago]. But he didn't."

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