Experience Like No Other
Once Ly came and picked Lachie and I up, I almost got into the drivers seat forgetting the Cambodians drive on the right side of the road, from that moment on I knew it was going to be an experience like no other. I was certainly not in Australia anymore.
Driving out of the hustle and bustle of Siem Riep was pretty scary, we were trying to dodge families of 5 people on the one motorbike and people on the wrong side of the road, but after a few kilometers the traffic eased off slowly and we began driving past rows of ‘houses’ on stilts (which were one roomed houses with not much in it, no kitchen and no bathroom) Families were all outside in the shade of the house lying in hammocks or working under the sun in the rice fields.
Once arriving at Ly’s house we got on a push bike each and cycled through Kam Pong Kdei and saw the same sort of living conditions. It was very rare to see people inside their house, children and adults alike were outside playing and chatting together, something you don’t see very often in Australia. The ride through the streets was my favorite part of my Cambodian trip, it was the first opportunity Lachie and I got to see the real Cambodia, the Cambodia that wasn’t filled with tourists. The people in Kam Pong Kdei were so excited to see westerners and everyone stopped and stared at us as we went past. It was a strange concept to me, hearing they thought we were beautiful because we had white skin, when every opportunity in the summer I spend in the sun trying to get more tanned! We were welcomed into people’s homes and they were happy for us to walk under their house when the road was flooded and that was the only way to get past. I have never come across people so welcoming and relaxed towards strangers.
On the walk to visit one of the schools that help2help is rebuilding, we were followed by a large group of children who lived close by the school. They were delighted when we took photos of them and were over the moon when we gave them a lollypop each (which cost 70cents for a bag of around 50?) Their happiness was contagious and after hearing some of their stories about how they no longer attend school because they have to help their parents work to earn money, I was truly inspired by each and every one of them.
Lachie and I had the privilege of meeting another very inspirational child whilst on our travels through Kam Pong Kdei. After walking through a very muddy track we came to a little house that belonged to Ratha and his family, due to an undiagnosed illness Ratha is unable to walk or even sit up alone. We were shown the pram he now has to get around in, but I could not believe his 10 year old (tiny) sister was able to push him through the muddy track every day to school. When we visited, Ratha and his sisters were going to start school in just 2 weeks and they were extremely excited about it! It shocked me just how thankful these kids were to be able to get the opportunity to go to school, and the most remarkable thing was, that not once the whole time Lachie and I were there did Ratha stop smiling.
Another of our stops was the ‘hospital’ however that is definitely not what it was. The reception was tiny, with only a small desk and couple of broken chairs. Next door the consulting room had nothing in it but an old bed and a desk and chairs. The maternity room had only 4 old beds with no blankets and the room where people can get blood tests was bare apart from a fridge donated by Barringtons. None of the rooms were hygienic and it was clear they were unable to afford the necessary equipment. Ly told us that this ‘hospital’ was meant to be the local hospital for 120 thousand people but a lot of locals are to poor or too sick to travel to the hospital, so many die quietly. Even if people were able to go to the hospital it did not have the resources to be able to help anyone in serious need.
I felt so lucky to be able to experience the things I did, and have the opportunity to meet Ly. Help2help is doing such a wonderful thing and the change their efforts have made already can easily be seen. There is still so much that can be done to help with even the smallest amount of generosity, I am looking forward to going back and continuing to help!