There is really no doubt in my mind that the trip we are about to embark on will be not only an adventure but also something that hopefully will make us more knowledgable and smarter, something that will benefit us for the rest of our lives. Im not trying to say that we are completely out of it now, Gustaf has lived in London for almost 7 years now, ever since he graduated from High School, and me, myself, I have lived in Hong Kong since 2005. I guess Im saying it just because of that, because I know how much I have learned from living abroad and having had a travelling life. Not that you dont learn things from staying local, its just different things. The more we learn the more complex things tend to get, its like when we have just scratched the surface of a subject, we have a brief moment of feeling that we have knowledge. Its kind of being a teenager and having the feeling of knowing what life is about. Then we wait a few years and suddenly the world is not simple anymore.
Sorry, I just drifted away from the topic of this blog, I do that sometimes, sometimes deliberately and sometimes without even noticing it. A personality flaw that at times can be annoying. What I was trying to get at when I started drifting away in my text was that we are very well aware of the fact that this trip is a huge ego thing, so big I honestly thought it would never happen except in my head. Maybe because of that feeling of one in a million did we actually realise what an enormous (I was about to write tremendous but Mr D. Trump kind of tortured and executed that word so you have to settle for enormous) privilege it is. Just getting the opportunity to do it and then to be able to accumulate the funds (which is not unsubstantial) is equal to winning a lottery, We therefore felt that we have to try to do something good at the same time To do something for some who havent had the same luck in the lottery of life as us.
We decided on a fundraiser for children who have had a really bad start in life – who had nothing. SOS Childrens Villages aims their focus on just that, creating a home environment, security, health care, schooling etc for kids with no parents or families with no means to take care of their children. SOS have a village in Siem Reap, Cambodia and we took the decision that that would be the target of our fundraiser. We will do all we can to raise Euro 50.000 for these Cambodian children.
However, if we are going to put in all the work required, we need to see the village and meet the kids. To meet the people who work there and hear their stories would be crucial to our success, at least thats what I tell myself. If we furthermore could get an idea of how the money will be used it would make it even easier to reach the goal.
After a bit of emailing back and forth I finally boarded a plane for the 2.5 hour long flight between Hong Kong and Siem Reap. The emailing was important since the villages are very protective of the children and every visitor must be fully aware of the rules that apply.
I arrived Friday afternoon at Siem Reap airport and must admit it was with a cocktail of emotions. I was really excited to be there and about going to the SOS Village but I was also a bit anxious since Im not really the best guy with kids. Im a bit awkward and its not me sitting at birthday parties with three kids on each lap singing kids songs. I dont have that ability. I am much more comfortable holding a speech in front of a couple of hundred grown ups than keeping 10 kids entertained.
Anyways, what was left of the Friday I spent finding my hotel and get hold of a tuk tuk driver who couold take me to the very famous Angkhar Wat. It turned out you really need a couple of days to see it all and I had like 3 hours. But, what an amazing (again not saying tremendous) 3 hours! Fact is I dont particularly enjoy travelling alone, I have done that through work way too much already but here I completely lost the concept of time and space. Well, I wasnt completely alone, Mr Sayon, my eminent Tuk Tuk driver and guide made sure I would get to see as many goodies as humanly possible before the sun set. Churches, temples and cathedrals are normally not objects that I spend time on, I often find them intimidating, threatening and giving off a scent of power and money that is everything but pleasant. Angkar Wat however, is a magical place with beauty and mystique that cant be explained. It needs to be experienced. I am not of a religious nature, I am not a believer, but even though parts of Angkhar Wat was packed with tourists, there was a calm over the entire space which is very difficult to explain but it just made it extremely pleasant to be there.
A dinner on pubstreet with all the drunk backpackers served as the absolute contrast to what I had experienced earlier. I found a restaurant, ordered a pizza (i know I know but I was too tired and too hungry to go local food) and observed the drunk backpackers walking around in their shorts and flip flops challenging each other in either drinking more cheap shots or feasting from the food stands serving BBQ hairy spiders (hairy and big like hamsters) snakes or xl size bugs. Sometimes its great to blame vegetarianism.
Saturday morning 10.00, meeting at the Childrens Village. The hotel helped me find a tuktuk driver who new the location.
I sat and talked for quite some time with Soeut, the director of the village and Nhan his assistent. We talked about everything from how they came to work there as well as their challenges and rewards. We talked about the kids and how they came to live there as well as their future prospects. I also described our fundraiser, what we aimed to achieve for them as well as the challenges of the motorcycletrip and that we will be back to see them on the actual trip to Sweden. Soeut likes motorcycles so I of course offered him to borrow one of our bikes. Im sure we will have a great time. Soeut said he feels a bit like the kids father. Many of them dont have one and kind of adopt Soeut. SOeut and his staff always stay in touch with the kids even after they have grown up and left the village and in some cases they have come back to have their wedding at the village. Its their family.
We sat on the patio of the main adminstrative building of the village. It was surrounded by the 14 houses where the kids are living. Up until now though it had been really quiet. Not a sound from the houses. But suddenly there movement and noice, not loud noice, more controled. funny. A stream of kids in school uniforms walked past by us and in the different houses. It was lunch and resting time. Rest for the smaller kids, chores and homework for the older ones. In each of the 14 houses there are 10 kids in ages from 3 to 15 who lives together with a ”mother”. I must admit I was a bit scared of what I would see when visiting the village. Scared it would be heartbreaking cus thats another thing I aint too good at. For these kids who have had a really shitty start of their life where the only thing looking worse is the prognosis of their future, SOS have come really far in creating th best possible environment.140 kids now have a place and a plan supported and aided by SOS all the way through university.
The school have approximately 400 students in all ages from kindergarden through High School. That means that approximately one third comes from the village and two thirds from villages in and around Siem Reap. Primary reason for going to this particular school is poverty.
100 percent of the costs for running the village and the school are covered by donations. The funding for the village is done by SOS Sweden.
Soeut and his team now have an idea of helping an additional 300 kids in the Siem Reap area who all live under extreme poverty and who because of that dont get a chance to go to school. They have parents but their situation at home is such that it becomes very difficult due to the parents being away from early morning to sometimes late at night which means that they usually needs to go with their parents during the day rather than go to school. Soeut beleives there are between 600-700 children in the area who are in this situation. The plan is to try to half of these children with health care, school uniforms, food and a bicycle (so they can drive to school).
Right now they dont have the money to execute the plans but with a successful Pops & Frog fundraiser these plans can be set to work and we, all of us, who in any way have helped with gear or money can be proud of ourselves doing something for someone who really really needs it.
So, of course you should be in on this! Send us an email and we will get back to you ASAP