The sun was scorching hot as we turned into Ta Trau village, a 30 minute drive away from Siem Reap. It was as if someone up there turned up the heat on the thermostat and forgot to turn it down again. I felt as if I was a piece of meat on the hot plate of the Cambodia barbeque I had enjoyed the night before.
A telling sign that this was an almost a forgotten village by the government when we drove past the World Heritage Angkor temples on well laid tarmac for their 3 million annual visitors – abruptly turning into bumpy dirt tracks which led to the village.
Earlier that morning, we were getting ready for the day of charity after spending the previous 3 days trekking in Phnom Kulen, the Holy Mountain of Siem Reap. This is the unique aspect of Trek For Hope: where we combine our love for outdoor adventures and our desire to help out the poor and the needy in the local communities.
Where we have received the natural beauty of a country, we also give back in terms of our efforts and donations to its people, not for pride’s sake or for bragging rights, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
The Angkor complex in Siem Reap is one of the most visited tourist sites in Asia, yet despite its prosperity, the residents of Siem Reap still suffer from a high level of poverty.
36% of the population live below the poverty line, earning as little as US $30 a month.
“I grew up in a place like this too, even poorer,” Nhan, the programme director, pointed to a hut in the background. It looked hastily assembled with straws, leaves, and sticks, designed more for functional purposes like shelter than an actual house.
“My mission now is to help as many children as possible to get out of poverty through education,” he said.
In the midst of my struggles to keep steady as his pillion rider, with one hand on the camera and the other holding a bagful of donation items as well as our Trek for Hope banner, I had to stop the ride for this shot.
The team of 31 were split into groups of three as we visited 3 different villages: Samrong, Kbal Krapeau, and Ta Trau, the last being the main rendezvous point.
Our team was greeted by waiting villagers at their communal gathering area. This communal area is also often used as worship hall as Buddhist statues and ancestral items made up the central shrine. We gave a short introduction about ourselves and what we were doing in Siem Reap through a translator. Any barriers that were initially there were quickly broken down through some ice breaking games.
One audience member was clearly captivated by the day’s activities.
For once, the participants felt like how it is like to be a vendor in the night market – only that we were not selling items, but giving them out of love.
“A candle loses nothing by lighting up another candle”
I hope my little light can bring some smiles – Sandy Chung
After a short trek through the village to understand the local way of life, our teams proceeded to the villagers’ local schools to interact with the children and distribute hygiene kits.
You can have the sweets but you must learn how to take care of your teeth too…that seems to be the message this team is trying to put through!
Trek for Hope participants demonstrating the correct teeth brushing techniques to the local children.
After lunch, the participants went back into the field and started the afternoon doing roof repair for some of the villagers’ homes. The zinc sheets and wooden structures were all part of the cost which the participants had raised and contributed prior to their trip to Siem Reap. We were assisted by local woodcrafters and builders.
We sat down for a chat with one of the home owners whose family were the beneficiaries of our build-a-home programme. Prak is a 33 year old sole bread winner who works as a waste collector for a recycling company. He starts work daily at 7am and works until late in the evening. He returns home for dinner and then goes around town on his cycle to look for more discarded items that can be sold for recycling use. He makes approximately US $3 on a good day.
Prak and his wife Phary, together with his 5 children aged 10,7,6,3 and 1 have been staying in a dilapidated hut for almost a year now. He is receiving this new home as part of the communal benefit whereby the community works together with the charity organization Cambodia Charity Tour (CCT) in identifying the people who are in need the most. CCT then channel the donations collected from external parties or groups like Trek For Hope to purchase materials for the construction of the house. The family does not need to pay for the purchase of the land.
Here’s a picture of Prak and Phary with 2 of their children. In the background is the home they are staying in currently.
One could hardly imagine how a family of 7 fit into a house that is even smaller than a bomb shelter of a typical Singaporean HDB flat. Our hearts goes out to this family and we could only feel better with the thoughts that they are going to move into a bigger house we have had the blessing of helping to build for them.
Here’s a picture of another group of TFH participants (Hanping and Kieran) helping out in the roof repair at another location.
Through trek, we strengthen our body.
Through charity, we strengthen our soul. – Ivy Lim
It was a great way to spend the day, despite the relentless hot sun shining on us. We were glad that we were able to achieve so much in a day, getting to interact with local villagers, visit and immerse with their way of life. The local villagers also taught us with as little as they have, sometimes all it takes is a smile and a tightly bonded community, to get their spirit up and grit their teeth to live another day.
We were glad to be involved with them on this day and also leave our mark in the villagers we served with each member planting a mango tree!
Cheers for the 3 groups of participants from Trek For Hope that made 3 different villages feeling a little more special on this day of 17 Nov 2014!
If you would like to get involved with future Trek for Hope opportunities, donate directly to the organisations we are supporting, or have any other questions regarding about supporting those who have great needs, please feel free to email questions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and a representative will contact you shortly to provide answers.
Trek For Hope, Cambodia 2014 was organised by Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers meetup group and TravelledPaths.com. Equipment Sponsor: World of Sports, Singapore
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