Our Journey to Pailin Cambodia
After a couple of weeks traveling in Vietnam we flew to Cambodia and arrived in Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat, Bayon and all the other amazing sights. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a once in a lifetime experience for our family group, John, Helen, Rachael and Tim.
Before leaving Australia we had made contact with Seda and Tony Douglas of Save Cambodian Children Fund Australia (SCCFA) via our dear friend Richard Lim. Seda and Tony’s heartening enthusiasm, friendliness and kindness afforded us the most amazing of experiences while travelling in Cambodia.
After catching up with Seda, Tony and Seda’s cousin, Rose, in Siem Reap we headed to the town of Battambang for an overnight stop. The next morning we travelled to the small village of Pailin where a wonderful school has been built with the proceeds of funds raised by many hard working Cambodians and Australians.
While travelling through many villages and past significant landmarks, Seda and Rose related some of the experiences they suffered at the hands of the Pol Pot / Khmer Rouge regime. As youngsters Seda, Rose, and all of their large family were so poorly treated during this Regime. They, along with so many other Cambodians, lost the majority of their family members during this appalling period of history. Their stories were intensely personal and we were so humbled at hearing them first hand. With this experience our visit to the school in Pailin had an even more profound impact than we ever thought possible. The need for these dear children to have an education is so vital. It will afford them the opportunity to make positive choices in the future and have a chance to not experience the same suffering and lack of education as that of their parents.
On the day we arrived at the school in Pailin we were a little delayed and despite this the parents were waiting to greet us in the hot sun.
Our welcome could not have been more generous. The dedicated teachers welcomed us with open arms. Such an emotional welcome one will never forget.
On the way to Pailin we purchased 20 freshly baked baguettes from Battambang.
One of the first things we did was to cut up the baguettes, smother them in homemade raspberry jam from Australia (from Helen’s kitchen) and pass the snacks around to all the kids. The joy on the children’s faces was truly wonderful and as there were some extra pieces, some of the parents were also able to taste the treat. The empty jam jars themselves were a welcome addition to someone’s kitchen:). We also distributed other supplies from Australia to the families.
The next day was even more exciting. While the donated uniforms were being sorted and sized, we introduced the children to beach balls, Aussie rules footballs and an inflatable world globe. Tim was the ‘chief pump teacher’ with lots of help from many of the children. He also created chaos by showing the class how to hit the balls over the ceiling rafters. The children had a great time.
We also presented them with calendars from Australia, a number of English & Australian reading books, jigsaw puzzles, pens and pencils. The children were like little sponges absorbing all the information around them. They were so keen to learn the names of the animals and places we were showing them. The children portrayed such politeness and were so delightful in their enthusiasm to learn.
To add to their excitement on the day, Pailin TV arrived and took footage of the children being presented their uniforms, pens and pencils donated by Rosmey Veng and all the other gifts from our group.
The uniforms donated by Sok Vannlida and Sok Matepyn were of varying sizes and shapes and so their presentation became amusing for some.
We then moved outside and planted a number of fruit trees to provide the children with shade in the future along with fruit for the community. Again we were struck by the enthusiasm and generosity of assistance from both the children and their parents. The children enthusiastically helped with watering the plants, proudly using the water pump installed last year.
We could not be more grateful for this fantastic opportunity. Firstly, to Richard Lim for his friendship and encouraging us over many years to consider visiting Cambodia as well as connecting us with the delightful Seda and Tony Douglas.
The Pailin school is such a credit to Seda’s drive, personal magnetism, forgiveness and generosity. All of this could not have been achieved without all the other hard working folks who have tirelessly raised funds in Australia with SCCFA over many years for this wonderful project.
There is still a lot to do and we encourage continued support so these families can self-support their dream of education for their children. With the plainly evident dedication of the teachers and parents, success is inevitable.
Rachael & Tim Hart and Helen & John Newman