With a ‘jam-packed’ itinerary planned for my week in Cambodia, I really was not sure what to expect and what I was looking forward to most. Having never visited Asia before, my excitement and apprehension about what to expect built to the point where I even began to lose sleep on the days before my departure! However, I needn’t have worried as it really was an incredible trip and a very humbling week with everything from beautiful ancient temples left to be taken over by the jungle, to the hustle and bustle of the very modern city of Phnom Penh. Any trip to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Angkor Wat one of the largest religious monuments in the world with its sprawling architecture, dramatic facades and definitely a highlight a ticket off my bucket list. It was just incredible.
With the Khmer Rouge regime ending just 40 years ago, it is shocking to hear that only 15% of the Cambodian population can remember it. The genocide museum and the Killing Fields serve as a poignant and brutal reminder to how easily such a tragedy happened and stands as a reminder to never let anything like that happen again. The Cambodian people are resilient, hardworking and incredibly humble. But the difficult times are not yet behind them. The ongoing battle to rebuild their lives and create a legacy for the next generation still lays ahead for most of the population. Education is limited, as is healthcare.
The two camps we stayed at are just beautiful. Camp Beng Mea Lea sits surrounded by rice paddy fields and the camp communal area serves as a hub for the camps with meals, briefings and entertainment held here. Camps Beng Pae is surrounded by jungle and has a similar set-up to Camp Beng Mea Lea with a central communal space at the heart of the camp. In both Camps longhouses are the traditional accommodation for our volunteers and sleeping in these really was a highlight for me – who knew I would be that comfortable with being so close to nature! Don’t even get me started about the food – everything was delicious and our camps staff could not do enough for us – catering for even the most fussy of eaters. Han and Sunny, our Camp managers, are two of the most inspiring and lovely people who cannot do enough for you.
After visiting Camp Beng Mea Lea and Camp Beng Pae it is clear to see how the projects we support are helping to educate and improve the lives of the people in the local communities. At Beng Mea Lea the Jungle Garden and plant nursery allows vital medicine and crops to be distributed to the families who can then cultivate and grow their own crops and sell to generate income. The water pot project at Beng Mea Lea was messy and brilliant fun – providing a way to ensure families have clean water to use in the dry season. At Camp Beng Pae, volunteers work on the well projects which provides a vital source of clean water for the local families, in addition to this they have also built a beautiful home for a lady whose husband has passed away and she has been living in what you can only describe as a shed without walls. Seeing first-hand the how much of an impact we are making on people’s lives and enabling them to help themselves fills me with pride. We are making a difference in the world and that is a good thing.