Once in Cambodia, I fell in love with the people. I was shocked by their living conditions, yet they were all so happy. The people welcomed us warmly and offered so much, although they had nothing to spare. I knew I could help these people, and I thought that if I spread the word about life in Cambodia, my family, friends and colleagues would want to help.
I came home in October 2013 and spoke to my (then) school community of St James’, Muswellbrook. I asked for much-needed educational and personal hygiene supplies and we had an overwhelming response. People were so generous that the issue became − how to get goods to Cambodia? I realised I would have to take them myself. A group of 11 formed and in April 2014 we visited some of the schools and villages I had visited earlier.
Once the connections were made and strengthened, I have continued to support these places. I have returned in 2016 and 2017 with friends and colleagues. The teachers have raised money and awareness in their schools and sometimes parishes.
Since moving to St Mary's Scone, the parish has been very supportive of my efforts. Fr Peter Nguyen is happy for me to speak at Mass regularly. I think a big part of our success is due to the fact that I give each contributor a personalised photo to show how their money has helped.
We raise funds and then we visit villages and schools and help out with their ‘wish list’. Wherever possible, we buy the goods in Cambodia. It’s cheaper, transport isn’t an issue and it helps the Cambodian economy.
A wonderful outcome of all this has been that the children in my school are very aware of the need to act like Jesus and think of others less fortunate than themselves.