Karina the Owner of Slumbersac and Elke had the opportunity to take part in an incredible journey to Cambodia to work on projects with Slumbersac's chosen charity B1G1. They both got to see, first hand, how the charity works and why Slumbersac is so proud to be a part of it.
With charity partners across the globe, the B1G1 trip was attended by 23 people from far and wide including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, Ireland, and Germany.
Day 1: Charity - This Life Cambodia
One area which I’m passionate about is children and their education. So with this in mind, we have decided that we would give our support to the Charity - This Life Cambodia (TLC). This charity focuses on educational development which directly benefits the lives of children, youth, and their communities in Cambodia. The aim is to bring the community up to a point where they can sustain themselves. Each community decides for themselves what their biggest needs are and the charity shows them the best way to go about getting their needs met and how to raise the money to enable them to do it.
Today we visited a primary school for grades 1 to 6 and a lower secondary school up to grade 9 with a total of 477 students.
The Cambodian government has a budget of $3 per student a year which is used to build and maintain schools and pay the teachers. The students and their families are expected to pay for school uniforms and school equipment.
Some of the students attending the school have to travel up to 15km to get there. Most of the families live on $1 a day, so purchasing any mode of transport is impossible. Most of the students have to drop out of attendance as they simply can't get there. This is where the charity can help, we all rode on a 3km cycle tour on 35 bicycles through dirt roads and little villages and stunning countryside to deliver the bikes they need to be able to get to school. The Cambodian villagers are so friendly and they were all smiling and waving at us as we passed through.
When we arrived at the school we were greeted by the students and their parents and grandparents.
Each child had to wait in a queue and take a ticket from a hat with the number of their new bike on it, each bike was a different colour and had little baskets on the front. The bikes will not only benefit the students but their whole family. It was very moving to see their happy faces.
This is the second project TLC has been involved in for the school. 4 years ago they helped build solid floors for the school buildings and drained the land around the school. Before this, the school buildings were flooded during the rainy seasons. The school was able to raise funds of $8,000 in their own community.
It was truly a day like no other – a life-changing day! Off to bed for an early start tomorrow.
Day 2: The Trailblazer Foundation. Sala Baï
The Trailblazer Foundation is focused on helping impoverished rural villages in the Siem Reap Province. They work at the grassroots level, working deep within the rich cultural fabric of the community. Villages are selected based on their level of interest in working with the foundation. Existing administrative structures, such as the village chief and village elders manage project planning. Trailblazer asks which specific needs are considered the greatest priority to encourage the villagers to take an active role in designing and implementing their own solutions.
The Trailblazer location we visited, is responsible for building and distributing wells and sand filters for clean water and educating farmers on growing Western fruit and vegetables. They can then sell the fruits and vegetables they have grown to the local international hotels which achieve higher prices for them at the market.
The sand filters provide all-year access to clean drinking water for 1 family, for a minimum of 7 years. The impact of clean drinking water is huge. It provides better health, better nutrition, helps their crops grow better which in turn gives them a sustainable income.
Trailblazer also provides vital training on their maintenance and general health and hygiene advice. The wells and sand filters are not given for free. The communities and families have to pay a very small amount of money (2,50$ for a filter / 5$ for a well), which is deposited in a village fund. Money from the funds can be used by the communities for other projects, like building streets, etc.
The materials used for the sand filters are all from in the country and will be assembled in the villager’s houses for them to understand how it works. They will also teach basic sanitation and hygiene standards to prevent diseases. All of us got our hands dirty and helped to sieve and clean the sand.
The second projects Trailblazer is focusing on is gardening. They have test gardens for different vegetables, all organic with no use of chemicals. Trailblazer is teaching the farmers how to grow the vegetables that are in high demand to sell to the tourism market. The farmers can get higher prices for those vegetables.
Impact of the tour: Everyone has been provided 7 years of access to pure, life-saving clean water for a family.
We had a lovely and very delicious lunch at the Sala Bai restaurant. Sala Bai is a Hotel and Restaurant School, which gives vocational training to around 120 young disadvantaged Cambodians each year.
They are trained for careers in the growing hospitality industry, enabling them to achieve economic independence and improve the living conditions of their families.
The students must come from disadvantaged families and have a minimum educational level of grade 6 and need to be highly motivated. Preference is given to female candidates (70%). The families of each and every applicant are visited to review their background and explain the training. The training lasts for 11 months and is totally free of charge for the students. The scholarship provides school supplies, accommodation, food, bicycles, uniforms, and medical coverage.
100% of the graduates are employed within three months after graduation.
Impact of the tour: everyone on the tour has given 3 disadvantaged students vocational training
Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA)
PPSA called „The Brightness of the Arts“ is a non-profit Cambodian association improving the lives of children, young adults, and their families with art schools, educational programs, and social support.
Phare is a Circus project, which uses theater, music, dance, and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk, and modern. Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia. They perform nightly professional shows under a 330-person big top, 365 days a year.
We were able to attend their training and sit with the artists to hear their stories.
The show itself was breathtaking and amazing, it told the story of the Kmer Rouge regime using music, dance, painting, and acrobatics.
Impact: everyone on the tour has given 70 hours of performance arts training to young people.
Day 3: Child’s Dream - Playground building
Today we visited the charity 'Child‘s Dream‘. Their mission is to empower marginalised communities to shape their own futures. They achieve this by working with communities to improve healthcare and education for children and provide socio-economic opportunities for families.
The charity's plan is to build 10 playgrounds in schools in poor rural areas this year because this encourages children to come to school and reduces the dropout rate considerably. Each playground costs $8,000 to build and the metal frames are made by local craftsmen. They used to build them from wood which is cheaper, but with the high humidity and rainy season, they didn‘t last very long.
All tour members helped to build a playground for a primary school today. We had lots of little helpers, who enjoyed their day off school, building their new playground with us. We handed out old t-shirts so that the children wouldn’t ruin their school uniforms. We were digging holes, pouring concrete for the foundations, setting upswings, seesaws, and slides, and painting them too. The kids loved their new playground and were playing on it as soon as it was finished. We had lunch with the children and teachers followed by some classroom activities, which involved teaching them basic English and singing the popular nursery rhyme 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes‘. It was remarkable how quickly the children learned the song!
It was a physically exhausting day working in the intense heat and sun, but it was all worth it and we were rewarded by much beautiful smiling, happy children.
Impact: by attending the study tour everyone has given 5 children access to a fun playground.
Free to Shine
Free to Shine is an independently funded non-government organisation (NGO) aiming to prevent sex trafficking by providing material and social support for at-risk girls to finish school and also by delivering community education. Free to Shine follow a Human Rights-based approach, delivering their scholarship program to girls and their families.
Cambodia has the 3rd highest rate of human trafficking in the world, 80% of which is sex trafficking. Girls as young as 4 years old are sent to brothels, mainly in Thailand.
Free to Shine is looking to support girls in the rural areas of the country that are most in danger. The main risk factors are poverty and not attending school.
In Cambodia, 25,000 girls are not going to primary school and 119,000 are not attending lower secondary schools (grade 7-9).
We had the chance to attend meetings with the social workers and some of the girls under the protection program. For the girl's protection and safety, the windows of the bus were covered and we were not allowed to take cameras and mobile phones with us.
We spent an emotional morning with Free to Shine, observing how their trained social workers guided the identified 'at-risk' girls - testing their literacy, checking up on their domestic situation and school attendance, and providing the girls with seeds so that they could grow their own nutritious food. One social worker was even a past 'at-risk' girl, who managed to study all the way through to university, all thanks to the support and help she received in her youth. It was an intimate and insightful session that ended with the sharing of cakes and fruits, a mark of friendship forged between hosts and guests.
Impact: everyone on the B1G1 study tour supported 150 days of tuition classes for disadvantaged, 'at-risk' girls.
Scholarship workshop with Child’s Dream
Following lunch at Haven, another vocational training restaurant, we visited Child's Dream Scholarship Workshop. Students who have completed lower secondary level education can apply for a scholarship at a high school supported by Child’s Dream.
Recipients of the scholarship shared their inspirational and heart-wrenching stories of overcoming challenges throughout their journey, as well as their aspirations for the future as they prepared to start university. The participants of the B1G1 study tour then shared lessons from their own entrepreneurial journies, which these dedicated students eagerly listened to.
At the farewell dinner, every participant recounted their highlights and 'goosebump-moments' from the tour as they received their Gratitude Certificate for contributing to the work carried out on the tour. After tears, hugs, and many high-fives, we closed the tour with a final joyful song.