Exciting news from Josh's Charity trip to Cambodia!

Josh's journey to Cambodia!

(written by Josh Marques)

Last month, my partner Hannah and I embarked on a lifechanging journey to Cambodia. We ventured out into a small village with the hope of helping many people, young and old, who desperately needed a better chance at life. Having done a lot of volunteer work here in Australia I had mixed feelings about what to expect.

Firstly, I was travelling to a country where I had never visited before, and then proceeded to travel miles away from the nearest city (where many tourists are site seeing, relaxing and enjoying cheap food and drinks) to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. To make it even more challenging, it was close to 40-degree heat and with no power or water, just the items we brought ourselves - far from the luxuries that Australians enjoy at home. Boy, it turns out i had nothing to worry about - the fear of the unknown and testing environment quickly disappeared as we arrive at the village and saw many children (and some adults) running to greet us with huge smiles on their faces. We felt like family almost immediately.

Our reason for the trip was to personally fund (with Marques Flooring) the building of a house for a young family. The father, Kang, his wife, Srey Eup and their young daughter Nita were currently living in what we would call a lean-to. Basically, some palm trees and some timber, providing them almost no protection from the elements. All it would take was a little storm and it would be flattened. Part of the task was to also help build the new house, all by hand. Without the use of any power tools, it was a very interesting task.

Our first meeting with the family

Whilst it was a slow process, it was fascinating to see how they build houses without the use of power tools and even most hand tools.  Locals from the surrounding villages travelled to help out as we slowly went through the process of digging the holes for the footings, building the base, the walls and of course, to install the flooring - a task they saved for me now knowing that I have timber flooring business (I handed many Marques Flooring hats when we first arrived.) Their flooring was quite a bit different from home however, all hand-nailed, small strands of stripped down bamboo... it took forever! The heat was unbelievable, we would have been drinking 4-6L of water per day and sweating it straight out. No need for a bathroom stop, which was lucky, as there wasn't a bathroom!

Digging for the footings                                                                       Preparing the flooring

During our time in the village there was a of course a lot of playing games with the local kids. Many took a liking to Hannah, and I distinctly remember hearing the constant laughter and cheer from some of the happiest kids you will ever see. These little angels have none of the electronics, toys or even sporting equipment that most kids would have, yet they are still so incredibly happy. It was a very humbling experience and we quickly fell in love with them, and them us. So much that they wouldn't let us leave. It didn't take long to realise something quite mind-blowing for us and them - when we were trying to film 'selfie' videos with them. Most of these kids we don't think would have ever seen their own reflection. These children were completely mesmerised by seeing something move the same way as them on the screen... it is amazing to stop and think about it.

They showed us many of the games they play and the songs they sing, and no, not hit songs that we know. You could imagine the excitement from everyone when we returned on the last day with tonnes of toys, balls, clothing and drawing and writing material. It was incredible. These little ones have an incredible imagination, you should see how well they can draw and colour. They LOVE anything with colour and drew us a few pictures to take home with us (these are now pinned on the fridge).

While there, the locals cooked us lunch over a fire and insisted I try their 'rice wine'. Wow what a kick that gave me. I had to concentrate that little bit more when hand nailing the flooring after lunch that was for sure!

In the end, we ended up scrapping some of our relaxation days and visited some other villages to help out with various situations, including a young father that had been bitten by a Cobra. We had a bad feeling that he may not have been receiving the treatment needed and fortunately, we were able to get him to a hospital, to not only save his leg, but his life. Whilst the hospital was not that expensive ($90 usd) it would be more than he would earn in an entire year!

On the last day, we did what they call a handover ceremony. Here, we officially handed over the house to the family along with plenty of gifts like hammocks, clothing, cooking utensils and of course to make mum feel special, we got her a mirror and a handbag! I have to say, this entire thing was by far the most rewarding and humbling experience of my life. Yes, I cried, we all cried, in both happiness and sadness and I already can't wait to go back.

Excited for handover ceremony!

During our time there, through additional fundraising, we were also able to build a water well (only $200 usd) so now the whole village finally has fresh water, a massive improvement we definitely take for granted back at home.

When we returned to our accommodation it really hit home as to how much of an impact we had just made. Since being in Cambodia, word must have spread around our accommodation as to what we were doing and on the last day we were greeted by the General Manager, along with many of the staff members that wanted to personally thank us for what we had done. But the most moving part of this was when one of the staff members who accompanied us to our room told us his story. In short, just two years ago, he was in the same position as this family. As a result of someone building a house for him, it moved him up in the level of respect/status which then allowed him to get education, which then allowed him to get a job. And not just a regular job, a good paying job, something quite rare in Cambodia. It was so humbling to think how much different 'our family' will now live and I can't wait to visit them again in the near future.

Overall, this was an amazing time in our lives and I think everyone needs to experience at some point in their life. For both of us, it was definitely a life-changing experience and has totally changed my outlook on many things. After such a moving experience, my plan is to now continue to do this for many more families and villages and return as regularly as I can. I have a very unique opportunity whereby through the contacts I have in place, it means that 100% of all funds go directly to the cause. There is absolutely no administration whatsoever, which means we can make a far greater impact with less money. I have already been contacted by several 'charities' that have quoted me 2 - 3x the price to do exactly the same thing - quite disgusting really. If anything, this motivates me more to see just how much of an impact I can make. There are literally hundreds of thousands more people just like this in Cambodia that need help. What I have written here is only part of what we experienced and saw whilst over there. Some of the deeper things we heard and saw were horrifying, and I want to do everything that I can to give opportunities to those that need them. All in all, Cambodians are the nicest people I have ever met and Cambodia definitely has a place in my heart.

If you would like to be involved and donate, or would even consider joining me on my next trip there please visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/buildCambodia

For anyone that wants to contribute, please leave a note for what specifically you would like it to go towards and I will personally deliver it and get footage so you can see just how big the impact is for yourself! :)

Thank you so much for reading through this. Below are plenty more photos from our time there. Video to come soon! As they say in Khmer (Cambodian) - Arkoun Chraen (thank you very much)

 

             The site for the new house                                                                  Local kids watching and waiting to play!

Hand drilling for the water well!                                                                   Starting to set out the structure 

Drawing time with the kids!                                                                                  Amazing kids :)             

House starting to take shape                                                                  Hand nailing all the flooring!

             Me and the builder                                                                          Laying the flooring with my side-kick

Goodies for the kids, enough for 12 kids for only $80 usd.                  Lunch break with the locals trying their rice wine

Handing out gifts to all the kids, what an experience!

Who is having more fun here? The kids or us!? haha

More things for the kids!                                                                 Handover ceremony, very emotional

Completed house with windows!                                                                                        Check it out!                     

The water well complete                                                                                    Success and celebration!

If you would like to be involved and donate, or would even consider joining me on my next trip there please visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/buildCambodia

For anyone that wants to contribute, please leave a note for what specifically you would like it to go towards and I will personally deliver it and get footage so you can see just how big the impact is for yourself! :)