At the age of 9, Dara Miles fled Cambodia's killing fields. Two decades later he has come to another field of death - Rwandan refugee camps, where he helps deliver babies.
"When I see smiles on the faces of the mothers and when I hear the cries of newborn babies, I feel I am reborn," said Miles, a registered nurse who is one of about 50 American aid workers in Goma.In the camps, he saw "a flashback of my own life," said Miles, 29, a resident of Minneapolis.
Miles was living a peaceful, rural life with his aunt - tending pigs, chickens and his dog Lora - when Khmer Rouge guerrillas seized his town of Posat in 1973. He fled to Phnom Penh, where his father, a well-to-do pharmacist, arranged for all the family to learn English.
When fighting peaked in the Cambodian capital, his family fled again. Their car was seized and the family of ten, including four boys and four girls, trudged on.
One by one, all but he and his father were wiped out by cholera, malaria and hunger. Father and son continued their flight toward the Thai border until, close to their goal, Khmer Rouge soldiers led away his father, and the boy was left alone. The Khmer Rouge killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians during its brutal 1975-78 rule.
Miles, found by Khmer Rouge soldiers, was put to work watering rice fields in a forced labor commune with 3,000 children. He stayed there 3 1/2 years until 1979, when, during a Vietnamese attack, he and 40 other children fled.
Making a bare living by smuggling goats, cigarettes and sugar across the Thai-Cambodian border, Miles was caught by Thai police, who sent him to a refugee camp in Thailand - "the best thing that happened to me," he recalls.
A kind American doctor in the camp, Steven H. Miles, spotted the boy's English ability. He was taken on as a translator and in 1983 went to the United States, where he became a citizen and the doctor's adopted son.
"When I came to know a civil war was going on in Rwanda, I signed up for the job here," said Miles, who works with the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
As many as 500,000 Rwandans were massacred this spring during 14 weeks of civil war, and a million fled across the border into Zaire and other neighboring countries.
After an initial scourge of cholera, dysentery, meningitis and other diseases killed some 45,000 Rwandans in the camps, the daily death rate is down to about 300.
Dozens of babies are being born also. Miles has not kept count of the number of mothers he has helped give birth in Mugunga camp. He is not an obstetrician, but the lack of specialists in Goma means he has to do the job.
"When I see a baby's head coming out, I wait and I put a finger in the baby's mouth so that the newborn can breathe, and when I hear the baby's first cry, I thank God for helping a new life."
"When you see death all around you for years, a new life, a new birth has a very special meaning," he said.