While in Singapore, I learned through friends about a wonderful organization, Caring for Cambodia (caringforcambodia.org). Our family had visited, and been keenly affected by, our trip to Cambodia in November of 2012. When I found out about the volunteer service trip for ages 9 and up with parents, I knew that Sophia and I needed to go.
So we headed into the unknown by meeting a diverse group of volunteers at the Changi (Singapore) airport for our trip to Siem Reap - our leader was actually a former expat now living in New Jersey who was travelling the entire way for this project. Caring for Cambodia now runs eight schools in Cambodia in conjunction with the government and has exceeded all goals - they are truly the blueprint for success in this still developing country. We didn't know exactly what we'd be doing when we arrived, but we were game for anything.
Turns out, we accomplished three major objectives in 3-4 days. The first morning, we helped serve breakfast at one of the schools. Sophia and her new friend Gavin were rockstars - I see future teen servers in them!
During the next couple of days, we built (ground up, even sawed the wood!) new recycle bins, a long paver pathway in front of the classrooms, and most importantly, the foundation for a building that would house a counselor for the female population. It is so challenging to be a girl in school in Cambodia. The families routinely expect you to drop out and fill a traditional wife role, and there can be pressure to resort to prostitution to support the family. CFC is dedicated to changing this dynamic and we were proud to be part of it. As a mother to a young lady, I was particularly emotionally overwhelmed (nah that never happens to me...). Our kids were tireless workers - it was truly an inspiration to see them interact with the local children. When you witness this sort of thing, you realize that language is not a barrier. We are all the same, wanting and looking for similar things, albeit on different levels. But it is heartwarming and heartbreaking simultaneously to see the kids playing together happily...knowing that they are on different tracks due to the moment of their birth.
On our off day, we visited the famous Buddhist temple, Angkor Wat, (a second time for us, but it was fun with our new friends!) and had some lovely mother-daughter dinners in "downtown" Siem Reap.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I hope my friends still back in Singapore would consider going! Please visit www.caringforcambodia.org for more information. It's called the MAD trip (Make a Difference).
Please visit our destination page to see our other posts on our trips to Cambodia. We have a strong connection to this beautiful country and the kind people who've we met.
Gavin serving breakfast
This is how they cook! Pretty awesome fire pit.
Sophia serving breakfast to the students.
They all gathered each morning for their National anthem. And if they weren't quiet enough, they did it again. Can you imagine how the American media would tear this practice apart...
The lovely countryside surrounding the school.
This little boy wanted Sophia to take his picture and show it to him..and he was sooooo proud!
My hard worker!
This took hours. For real.
No child labor laws today.
Sarah - rock star and momma hen to all.
I can't get enough of this little girl. They all wanted to help so much!
That's a lot of rocks!
Painted and ready to go!
The girls' building started out smoothly...
And then the STORM came!
Keep on working!
Time out for touring. I love this picture.
Sophia and Rath, our favorite employee at Journey's Within Hotel. She was so happy we were able to take a taxi to come visit the hotel we stayed in previously. Such a sweet lady.