Humbled in Cambodia

By Pakialetchumy Antoni

A colleague of mine came to me asking for a donation to build water filters in Cambodia. I asked her about the campaign and said yes without a second thought. Not to donate but to join her in fundraising. I have always wanted to do something like this…to make a difference. Volunteering wasn’t something new to me however fundraising was.  As I’m an independent animal rescuer, my charity work revolves around animals and funds usually come from my own pocket.

The thought of fundraising left me doubtful yet ambitious. I set a target of USD 500 (what was I thinking) and I started talking to my close friends about it. Much to my surprise, many said yes without having me to explain the whole thing to them. Some asked, “If you help people, how about the animals?” But I must say I have truly amazing people around me. Within a week I reached my target of USD 500 and before I left to Cambodia I had raised USD910. 

I couldn’t contain my excitement of going to Cambodia. People around me were excited too. I wasn’t sure of what to expect. In fact, for the first time, I went on a life-changing journey without any expectations. I also signed up for this cause for some personal reasons. I’m guilty of wasting water! I’m one of those who leave the water running while brushing teeth. One who has to wash hands several times because I have OCD. One who is afraid of dirty toilets, one who would rather not eat if the food is not tasty and above all, one who would notice the smallest foreign object in my drinks and order another one. So, I wanted to challenge myself to overcome those fears.

The trip was indeed an eye-opening and humbling experience for me. The kind of trip that makes you realize how lucky you are and how you should be grateful for what you have. I know it sounds cliché and it’s not that we don’t know such poverty exists, but when you get to see it firsthand, it’s a reality check. Despite being in such condition, a warm smile and welcome is what you get from the villagers. The village we went to this time around was Srae Chorngout located in rural Siem Reap. In those two days, we had helped the local NGO (Water for Cambodia) to install 19 water filters which means 19 families now have access to clean water. It was hard work. From making the mould to washing rocks and sand and not forgetting to pump water from a bore well (something the ladies there do every day). The rest of the filters will be installed by the local NGO as together we fundraisers had raised over USD 8000 and the remaining installations would take some time.

All good things must come to an end they say. I certainly feel the trip ended too fast, but I left Cambodia with money-can’t-buy experience. I came back with new friends and some broken nails but with cherished moments.  It has been a week now and some friends are already asking if they could join me in the next trip. If all permits, I’m definitely going back to Cambodia. Till then…Aw kohn MAD for this experience!