“Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit. You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart.”
― Joel Brinkley, Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
The above quote is the best way to describe our feelings at this present time. WOW what an adventure this trip has been! We have experienced ups and downs, tears of compassion and tears of hurt, harsh sunshine and cooling thunderstorms, rich and poor, both traditional practices and modern methods, generosity and greed, success and failure. Both ends of the spectrum. Thank you Cambodia, for you have provided some of our biggest challenges and some incredible, memorable life lessons!!!!!
The timing of this blog post coincides with the ending of our #drivecambodiasfuture crowdfunding campaign – which we extended from 1 month to 2 months in order to generate as much funds as possible to make this mobile school project come to life!!! We are SO GRATEFUL for everyone’s generosity and support of this project venture; it has been such an exciting rollercoaster. With your support, we raised a total of $10,476.00 AUD!!!! All in a short 2 month period. THANK YOU for contributing to our mission of providing access to education for Cambodian children. Although we didn’t reach our target goal, which we projected would cover full project implementation and sustain the project for the first 12 months here in Cambodia, we committed to using what funds we had responsibly, to ensure as much of the project as possible could come to fruition. And we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved.
With the help of Jimmy and his contacts on the ground in Cambodia, we were able to achieve:
Throughout the month of achieving the above, we have encountered experiences in Cambodia which we never saw coming! Were we prepared for them? No! Could we have seen them coming? No way! But did we learn from them? Absolutely. Such lessons learnt from temporarily living in a third world country are priceless.
We have experienced a bus breakdown in the middle of the night (and in the middle of nowhere!) in pouring rain, squishing ourselves into a narrow aisle on the floor of a bus for 2hrs to get back to Siem Reap (and the foot smells that came with it!), getting lost, road accidents, hospital visits, medical clinic visits, “Cambodian time” (meaning, nothing happens on time), having a giant leech come at us like a missile (hilariously funny and freaky at the same time!), and getting woken by loud, distorted Cambodian music + commentary at 4am on consecutive days which was due to a local wedding and an upcoming local election. You may have seen me type “#cambodia” at some points in previous blog posts….. and that sums up our explanation for our weird and whacky experiences here! It’s as easy as dusting yourself off and pushing forward, and laughing the experience off and labelling it #cambodia. We can live with that. :)
In contrast, the # experiences are neutralized by unplanned discoveries, spiritual awakenings, and a plethora of Cambodia’s true beauty on display. We have experienced selfless acts of kindness and generosity, forming of new friendships, help from complete strangers, home cooked meals, a real sense of family, and maternal love (baby Javi was shown great love by a number of JVS students and one particular young girl in the rural village who took him under her wing as if he were her brother – words cannot describe the immediate bond we witnessed!).
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances and a multitude of contributing factors, our mobile school project has come to a halt for now. The vehicle itself is not far off being ready to go! However this project is not simply a physical vehicle. It is a commitment to an arrangement, a mutual understanding of expectations, a pledge for a need, and a collaboration of a charitable organization and a committed party on the ground in Cambodia.
Both Jimmy & HKC originally thought this project is what we mutually wanted, yet as the project has unfolded, so too has some difference in opinion, communication breakdown and a change in understanding. As an organization, we are not satisfied that the operation of the mobile school project will provide the level of transparency that we strive to portray if pursuing this with Jimmy as originally planned. As disappointing as this outcome has become, we are positive that moving forward independently of one another, Jimmy will continue to service his community with his teaching skills at JVS and now at Banteay Oumpel with the new structure – and HKC will remain committed to the mobile school project servicing children in rural areas where there is a need.
Moving forward, HKC will take some time to reassess, plan, and reflect before continuing with full implementation of the mobile school project. We have not lost sight of our goal, which is providing access to English education for as many Cambodian children as possible, in particular in rural Cambodia. We have learnt a great deal about the impact of voluntourism and the need for sustainable solutions in this country, and we are including consideration of these factors as part of our primary focus moving forward.
So, not to worry folks! Nothing is over; it is simply a change of direction in the road. We are appreciative that these unforeseeable events happened now, whilst in Cambodia rather than further down the track once project implementation was complete and we are back in Australia with limited ability to achieve damage control. For now, we have organized temporary storage of our vehicle whilst we network with some helpful people in the NGO sector, those who are connected with rural villages in need, and some English teachers of course! In the past few days we have already made connections with some wonderful people who are keen to help our mission.
Admittedly, we have felt stuck in the mud over the past week. But we plan to rise above our obstacles, out from the mud and bloom like a lotus. We will be back in Cambodia very soon.