2016 Cambodia experience

On 8 April, a group of 16 eager travellers, mostly unknown to each other, boarded a plane for Cambodia intent on experiencing a new culture and helping those in need. We came home 12 days later as great friends after a wealth of experiences created a series of unforgettable memories.

We certainly bonded in the knowledge that together we had made a difference to the lives of many people.

Before leaving Australia a great deal of fundraising had taken place with over $12,000 raised to be taken with us. This report details the events that took place on our 12-day visit to Cambodia and explains how the fundraising has helped many people in need.

The Peace Village – Takeo Province

The Peace Village is a Catholic Mission project established by Bishop Olivier about seven years ago. It is a special place that welcomes many people who would usually be shunned by others in society. The Peace Village is currently home to 6 families who have been affected by AIDS. It also encompasses a Special Needs School for children who are severely disabled and in need of lots of support. A section of the village is a boarding school for children who attend the nearby St Francis High School as it is too far for them to travel home each day. 

Our contributions to the Peace Village included:

3 wheelchairs, 3 walkers, a physiotherapy table, medical supplies and medicines, sleeping mats, pillows, towels and lamps for use in the dormitory. Each family received a small food package, a water filtration system, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, an esky, thermos and blanket. We also took with us and supplied the village with school uniforms, hats, sporting equipment and educational supplies.

St Francis’ High School – Takeo Province

This is one of very few Catholic schools in Cambodia, also a Catholic Mission project established by Bishop Olivier. The school is a beautiful haven for children from around the district. Many children travel a great distance each day to come to school, many by bicycle but some still travelling long distances by foot.

It was with great pleasure that we were able to purchase bicycles for 20 senior children who had previously had to walk to school each day. This was a great benefit for all members of their family.

Chum Kiri Village – Kampot Province

Chum Kiri village is a small rural village about an hour’s drive out of Kampot. It is a small Catholic community where Fr Luca is the priest. The centre of the community is a small church, a community kitchen and preschool for children of the village.

Until recently there were 18 households that had no form of toilet near their home. Therefore there were many issues with basic sanitation in the village. Our funds allowed us to contribute to the cost of supplies and installation of 18 latrines (basic pit toilets).

We were also able to purchase sporting equipment, educational supplies and resources for the preschool, provide funds for the restoration of a leaking roof and update the much-needed sleeping mats, blankets, pillows and mosquito nets for many families within the village. We also took with us and supplied the village with school uniforms, hats, sporting equipment and educational supplies.

On the eve of Khmer New Year we were honoured to be invited to join in with the community celebrations. An important aspect of the celebration was the cleansing of the older members of the community by their younger family members. On this day three members of our group provided haircuts to many community members which made them feel special and ready for New Year celebrations. Our funds enabled us to provide each of the elderly members with new scarves and sarongs to wear after the celebration. A food pack for their family was also given to each of them.

New Year Celebrations

Khmer New Year started this year on 13 April and we were so pleased to be invited to share this important event with familiar faces. The Thong family from our school who is currently living in Scone but originates from Cambodia was home in Phnom Penh for the holidays. It was so lovely to spend time with them and their extended family and learn more about the New Year traditions and celebrations.

Stepping Out Half Way House – Siem Reap

Clare Sorn who is originally from NSW, now lives in Siem Reap and operates a half-way house. The 20 children who live with Clare and her husband So were once living in an orphanage. Once they turned 18 though, they had to leave. Stepping Out allows them to be supported as they finish high school, begin university or find employment. Through fundraising efforts Stepping Out provides a home and all educational and living expenses for these 20 children.

Our fundraising efforts enabled us to provide Stepping Out with toiletry supplies for each child, medical supplies, new bicycle helmets, a month’s supply of rice for the house and cash for each child to buy a new set of clothes as a New Year’s gift. We also took with us a small library of reading books, sporting equipment and sports clothes.

Un Long Thom Village – Kulen Mountain

About 2.5 hours from Siem Reap, into the jungle of Kulan Mountain is Un Long Thom Village. This remote village is home to about 100 families with approximately 250 children who attend the local school. Most families farm cashew nuts.

After quite an exciting drive up the mountain including the last part of the journey in the back of a truck, we were greeted by a sea of smiling faces. It was with great pleasure that we purchased and supplied each family with a pack that included rice, salt, seasoning, oil, soy sauce, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, biscuits, a mosquito net, blanket and sleeping mats. We also provided te children with a new pair of thongs to help protect them from hook worms. We supported the school by purchasing much-needed school supplies and also took with us many educational resources, reading books and games.

Smiling Hearts Primary School – Siem Reap

Located within a suburban backyard is a small 5 classroom school known affectionately as Smiling Hearts. Ally, the principal and founder of the school, provides English lessons free for to up to 200 children from the local area each day.

Our fundraising efforts enabled us to provide the school with much needed school supplies such as books, pens, pencils, etc.

Sim Malone’s School – Siem Reap

About a 15 minute tuk tuk ride from the centre of Siem Reap is the small house of Sim Malone. She is a local person who is making a huge difference in the lives of the children within her small community. Each night between 20 and 30 children come to Sim’s house to learn English. Sim provides these lessons free of charge.

After spending an evening with the children from Sim’s community we were excited to present them all with educational supplies such as books, pens, coloured pencils, a Khmer-English dictionary and workbooks to help with learning English conversations. Sporting goods, toiletries and medical supplies were also donated.

The very busy 12 days we spent in Cambodia were life-changing for so many people. Each one of us was deeply touched by the warmth and friendliness of the Khmer people. They are such beautiful people who are so grateful for any help that we can give. This trip would not have been so meaningful without the wonderful support of so many people here in Australia. Family, friends, school and parish members all helped to raise the tremendous sum of money that allowed us to make these donations. Thank you to each and every person who helped to make this trip a wonderful success!

If you would like to know more about our adventures, the places we visited, the people we met, how you could contribute to future fundraising efforts and even if you are interested in coming to Cambodia in the near future, please feel free to contact me. There are many ways you can help to make a difference in the lives of others and live your faith to the fullest – just ask!

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