Sean Champ Smith boldly walks to the front line to be a courier of their stories; preserving dignity and honoring courage through struggle and triumph. He shares deeply personal stories. He leans in to hear hearts and break down walls.
What can a magazine, a friend and an email address get you? Inspired!
I read this article (http://www.outsideonline.com/1910476/jesus-kissed-war-fringed-love-swirled-rangers) in Outside magazine about an American living in Myanmar training Burmese people to defend themselves and their villages from the brutal Burmese Army. I thought, “I have to meet this guy.” Exactly two years to the date after the article was published, I was on an airplane to see how close I could get.
My contact was Sean Champ Smith. He worked with Free Burma Rangers, the organization featured in the article, for four years and is friends with the writer of the article, Adam Skolnick and accompanied him and photographer, Jonathan Torgovnik, covering the story. The only reason he agreed to meet with me was because of our mutual connection. When he first replied to my email he was deep in the jungle of Burma in an undisclosed location.
He’d told me in advance I’d not be able to go into the jungle because it was too dangerous. Also, the founder of FBR featured in the article had already left for the jungle to begin training that begins every November.
We met up in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He lived and happened to be in town for one day. That happened to be a day I could be there, too.
After a fairly easy time of finding Sharon and I in a large restaurant (since the blondes didn’t exactly blend), it didn’t take long to get to the heart of things.
TB: What do you do with FBR?
SS: My job, in short, revolves around film and photography efforts. I help teach our relief teams how to do so. Additionally, I create video’s for FBR to share with the general public.
TB: Click this link to watch one of his videos. Someone has to keep filming amidst the chaos. Sean is the guy behind the curtain working with the ethnics to help get their stories out.
TB: How did you get started?
SS: I did wilderness therapy with troubled teens, applied for World Race on a whim. The AIM founder called him and asked to apply. While on the World Race, I was working with Outpour Movement (on the Thai/Burma border) and learned about FBR. The World Race focuses the stuff on you, long enough to get messy. You learn about honor, love and self-governance.
TB: What’s your favorite part of what you do?
SS: I love creating, building relationships, and being a courier of their story.
TB: How has your life/ perspective changed because of working w FBR?
SS: Something about war, things that used to matter don’t. We want to avoid suffering. I’ve learned to lean in and embrace the tension around us and my comfort zones have changed. There are over 1,000,000 displaced people on the border. Yet, there is still so much joy in the camps.
TB: Do little boys want to be rangers?
SS: Yes. It is seen as an honor to their family.
TB: How can we pray for you?
SS: Jobs keep coming
TB: How do people find you?
SS: I’m off and on Facebook. Also, BBC news has used FBR footage.
His time in Chiang Mai was almost over. He was about to pick up his life and move back to Spain.
Though I didn’t get to meet the founder of FBR, I got something better…a long term friend and inspiration.
Sean Champ Smith is a man of the world…living on the grid, but on his own terms.
Talk about 6 degrees of separation…and this connection happened without LinkedIn or Facebook.
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