When we saw the smiling faces of all the children at the rural village school outside Siem Reap we knew that we were part of something truly magical!
All booked in late last year, little did I know of the adventure ahead of me! In June we began our journey with the Cambodian Wash House Fundraiser, setting ourselves a goal of $1000 to help raise funds to go towards The Head, Heart and Hands Holidays wash house project, a volunteer holiday program, created to not only experience the culture and community of Cambodia, but to help build and better the lives of local Cambodians who live in the rural villages.
Our donation went towards the build of a Wash House in one of the local schools and educating school children of basic hygiene like washing hands and brushing teeth. Travelling over to Cambodia and being to be apart of the build was a lot more than I expected to experience on so many levels.
I brought home understanding and insights that I will never forget!
In Cambodia many of the rural schools don’t have access to running water, which meant the children didn’t have access to basic hygiene like washing hands and brushing their teeth. For something so preventable, without the means of running water, the chances of catching illness for many of these kids are at an all-time high. Our work as a volunteer was more than just getting a little hot and sweaty, it was more about the hands-on difference we were creating for those less fortunate and making life-long friendships and connections across the globe.
Before the travels began, our small team at Social Media Tribe setup social media training workshops throughout the months of July and August. Each workshop was based around sharing Social Media strategies and tools to help small businesses with their online presence, with all the funds from each workshop going straight towards our passion project.
A huge thank you to those friends and clients who participated in our project by attending training, donating funds or space: Cath Doolan, Roaming Reptiles Victoria, Fundamental Agency, Jamie at Synkd, Lesley Bourke Real Estate, Cliff Stride, Jane at Queenscliffe Neighbourhood House, Cain at Digilogix, Petti Pettinella, Cameron at Shape HR, and Michelle at Redline Digital.
With all these contributions our total donation towards Head, Heart and Hands was $1071 and we couldn’t be more proud of you all! Thank you again for all the kind support towards our passion project!
As part of the trip, our group also learned about other amazing initiatives offering opportunities to the less fortunate members of the society.
Phare Circus offers free visual arts, dance, theatre and circus training to street children, and today more than 1,200 pupils attend the school! The training creates meaningful employment opportunity for Cambodian Artists and is a really wonderful initiative for keeping children off the streets.
Apopo – Hero Rats
We also learnt about Apopo’s Hero Rats that are trained to detect land mines, allowing dangerous land to be freed up for communities to use for farming and other development. It was interesting to know that over 60 countries are contaminated with hidden landmines and other explosive remnants of war, and even more surprising to hear that rats were coming to the rescue for many of these affected areas.
Treak Community Centre
Treak Village is a typical Cambodian village, 4 kilometres south of Siem Reap town. Make the 4 km journey and travel back in time 100 years. Parts of village life goes on much as it’s done for the past 1,000 years! Most people are subsistence farmers or fishermen; 50% of adults are illiterate, a direct result of the Khmer Rouge period.
There are around 2,000 people in 330 families. Several families are on the government poverty list with individuals earning a few dollars a day. 30 families live in extreme poverty with no land, job, savings or help from family members.
Very poor families struggle to cover the costs of their children’s education. Their children cannot get good jobs when they grow up and the cycle of poverty starts all over again. This is where the valuable work of Treak Community Centre comes in: offering children opportunities to learn english, sewing and other skills that open them up bigger future employed opportunities! We had the privilege to work with these children on one afternoon reading books and working on craft projects.
Other initiatives we visited included Seeing hands blind massage and Rehash Trash creating items out of rubbish!
We also learned to make Cambodian Amok and speak a few words of Khmer language taught by lovely Sreyleap!
A Q&A with a local monk was insightful look into the life as a Buddhist monk.
There are so many stories to tell from the trip to Cambodia, and I’m sure I’ve missed some along the way! Over the past few months, I may have donated my time, money and labour to this project but Cambodia has given me so much more!
The beautiful Cambodian people may have less in terms of material things, but they are so much richer in the ability to be present and prioritize connection with others over deadlines. They taught me simplicity, resourcefulness and happiness. They taught me how to live from my heart in the present moment. This is the biggest gift that I’m bringing home from Cambodia and would like to pass on to all of you!
Thank you to our clients for supporting this project, my new beautiful Cambodian friends, Head, Heart and Hand Holidays and the amazing team of women with whom I got to experience this journey!