Firstly, thank you to the many that help make this happen. In supporting Marques Flooring you are helping another family at risk with a great chance at a better life. I can’t thank you enough. I personally fund all of my own travel and expenses to ensure that all off the donations or support that Marques Flooring provides goes directly to these guys. This is how the impact is so great!
Normally we visit Cambodia in around September or October of each year, but this year (partially because we missed them too much) we decided to visit in April. This also coincides with the Khmer New Year celebrations, but it also meant it was only 6 months between visits. I don’t know if it was the shorter turn around or because it was our 5th time visiting but the kids warmed to us immediately. On day 1 we normally only have a few kids around and they slowly warm to us throughout the days and numbers increase each day. This time before even getting out of our Tuk Tuk we had kids running from everywhere, all with open arms wanting to hug us straight away, it was incredible to experience. The first kids running over to us were the young girls from family 5, the boy from family 11 and the kids from neighbouring properties. We already felt like we were back at home.
We first met the new family 13 and introduced ourselves with the help of our local legend, Sabet. The now famous blue tarp gets pulled out and we search nearby for some shade to set up. The downside to this time of the year, it is HOT, and the type of heat you cant even imagine until you experience it. Each day was 40+ degrees with temperatures cracking 50 degrees out in the rural areas, the sweat begins as soon as you wake up!
The blue tarp is now known as the place of fun as within about 30 minutes we had 28 kids all laughing, singing, drawing and of course piggy back rides. We buy from the local markets heaps of drawing and colouring books, pencils, rulers & sharpeners (they get most excited for these) and the kids have the best time. Whilst they are cheap, they are luxury items that the kids rarely get to enjoy. We also bring out some other favourites like bubbles and balloons that are literally received with cheering, clapping and jumping around in excitement.
To mark the end of the dry season and beginning of the wet season, Khmer New Year celebrations include water fights, and lots of them. We wanted to bring these celebrations into the villages so on this trip we purchased 40 water pistols for all the kids (and us big kids) too. It provided some relief to the heat but was a huge celebration and provided joy that I have never experienced before.
Over the next few days the build progressed nicely, broken up by small breaks for New Year celebrations and lunch that we provide for the builders and families to say thank you.
Meet Family 13: Bo Lup is 27 years old widow with two boys: Viet Sovann (who’s seven years old and goes to school) and Viet Sovein (who’s three years old). Bo Lup’s husband died a year ago during a traffic accident. Their grandma lives close by and helps when she can, and is likely to move in once the house is built.
On day 4 our plans were to also to go and visit families 2 right through to 12. Thanks to some donations (from one of the Marques Flooring team members own kids actually) we prepared ourselves with a gift pack for every family. This gift pack included more essential items that fall pretty low on the normal list of priorities. We literally cleaned out market stalls of every tube of toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, conditioner and body wash we could find. We also had printed photos of previous trips and builds to share with each family. As we went around and visited each family, it was a real pinch me moment, many times over. The joy we shared are moments i will hold onto forever. Hearing and seeing how well each family is now doing was one of the best feelings ever. It is one thing to see the immediate change for them, but it is a whole other experience when we get to see just how amazing all of them are now doing. We had reports on many of them now in schools, full time jobs, good health, some extended on their house, some homes now had 4 generations all under the one roof. Also the smiles when they get to see photos of themselves and their homes is so special.
The other amazing thing to see was recognising kids that we first met 5 or 6 years ago, some that were only babies at the time. There were some moments where it was hard to hold back tears of joy. We feel so part of this community of amazing people.
Day 5 and it was time for the handover ceremony to the new family. Along with some essentials and food, we also include extra gifts for each of the family members to make it extra special. For the boys it was soccer balls and of course huge water pistols. For mum and grandma it was a nice handbag, hats and some jewellery. Handover is always a special moment as it is the first day of their new lives and better direction. Now the family can focus on providing for each other, education and work. We already can’t wait to see them again in the future. Saying goodbye is very tough, but it is getting easier knowing that we will be back. It doesn’t stop the tears from both us and the them. The kids all give the biggest, tightest hugs you could imagine.
With the extended time we had on this trip we also made the very long journey out to our very first family from 2017. This is always a bit of an unknown as often in the past it has either been too flooded to get there, or when we do, mum and dad are in Thailand working. (which is very scary). Being the dry season and Khmer New Year we were so pleased that first we could get to the home, and to find that mum was at home! As we drove up the dirt pathway a small girl came dashing for us, Hannah and i turned to each other and could not believe it. It was Srey Niet, the daughter that we met as a baby in 2017. Not only did she remember us (from the photos we drop off each year) but she was so excited to see us. We could’nt believe it. We also found out that now the family no longer needs to risk going to Thailand to work. Both mum and dad now have local jobs, the family is all back together again!
As i write this and we wind up this trip, i am excited to share that we have now just got the funding to start home number 14!! We won’t be here to see its completion but we visited the family and already pre prepared all of their handover gifts. This family is huge, mum & dad, plus 7 kids and a grandchild. This one will be epic. More news and updates to follow on these guys.
If you or your business wants to help out, please get in touch with me. I am sure you can see just how massive the impact will be. Both for you personally but also for the family you are giving a huge chance to!