What can I say, it was another emotional roller coaster, another look into the tragic lives of others less fortunate and a whole new appreciation of the lucky life I have been given in Australia.
The day started off fairly relaxed, we visited a silk farm where we were able to learn about the process of making silk – it’s crazy you guys – and we also learnt that the women who work their arses off for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week making silk and things from silk, earn a measly $100 per month, and they are in one of the well paid silk farms. It’s no wonder so many desperate women turn to prostitution in Cambodia, it’s what they need to do to keep themselves and their families alive. Other than that darker side of the visit, it was really interesting and I have a whole new appreciation for silk products!
After lunch we all went and did a pottery class, it was heaps of fun and we all got to make something. I will admit that pottery is not my hidden talent and the Khmer assistants made basically all of my two products, but I definitely contributed.
The latter part of day was the most moving and the most heartbreaking, but also the most inspiring.
We spent the evening with the New Hope Cambodia organisation. What New Hope do is incredible, they provide free schooling for poverty stricken children and adults, they provide medical care as well as bike repairs and shelter for the homeless or families fleeing domestic violence in the hope of ending the cycle of poverty.
We had a wonderful tour guide who has come from poverty and is now almost a qualified tour guide who can speak English. Firstly we visited the first school that New Hope had, it was basic, and by basic I’m talking dirt floors, tiny rooms, barely any electricity and dirty – it is now a shelter for 8 homeless families and those fleeing domestic violence, it is guarded at night so husbands can’t come in to abuse their wives and children. The children at this place were simply beautiful, greeting us with big smiles and hello’s (the only English word they know) and showing us an abundance of affection that made us want to kidnap them and bring them all home (there is still time, I might just nab a few).
We then saw the school that New Hope have now, and it is world class compared to the first one, the rooms have desks and ceiling fans and electricity, there is a medical clinic and a bike repair shop where they train people so they can then get jobs and support themselves. Perhaps one of the most impressive parts is the New Hope restaurant where we ate. It employs the street kids and gives them traineeships to become chefs and waiters. The food was amazing, we ate crickets and peanuts, as well as spring rolls and a salad for entree, vegetable curry and rice for main and a coconut jelly for dessert. I loved everything, actually I ate everything but didn’t particularly love the crickets, the legs are pretty gross and it took me a while to swallow. They are as big as the ones in Australia, yuk!
While we were eating, a man called Doug told us about how New Hope began, who founded it and what they have done in the 6 years they have been running. And I tell you what, while he spoke, you could’ve heard a pin drop.
A man named Kemsour was born into extreme poverty, all he wished for was an education but he had to spend his days begging to bring money home for the family. Eventually he saved enough money, got an education and even had his own tuk tuk business up and running, but he sold everything he had to start New Hope so he could provide other children with education and heath care. What an incredibly selfless man.
We then met a boy in a wheelchair, unfortunately I can’t remember his name, but he was there to sing and play guitar for us while we ate – and Doug told us his story. He ran away from home when we was 6 because his father was abusive and he basically fended for himself on the streets. When he was 10 he was riding on top of a train carriage – the free way to ride – and he fell asleep and fell off, he was hit by another train and as a result lost his left leg. It was mangled for weeks until a doctor took pity on him and amputated it for free. He has since found his way to New Hope where he is going to school and learning music – which has been his dream his whole life.
I was in tears, they were silently running down my face as I listened to the tragic stories of these poor people. I simply can’t even imagine a life like theirs, one with so much struggle, and yet there are millions of people – mainly children – going through these struggles every single day. But the feeling I took away from dinner other than guilt over my wonderfully full belly, was inspiration. These people have come from the absolute bottom and have clawed their way up to make a better life for themselves, it is just the most wonderful thing to see and it makes me feel as though I could do absolutely anything I set my mind to.
Please please please have a look at the New Hope website at http://www.newhopecambodia.com and at least have a look at the work they do, and if you have a couple of dollars to spare, make a donation, 70% of the money they need to employ these street kids and teachers etc comes from donations, so anything is appreciated.
An absolutely awesome and inspiring night.