This is from a lovely blog I found. The original post can be found here: http://katkinnie.wordpress.com/love-my-blog-pay-it-forward/
I believe in the powers of the Universe and the importance of flow and giving, which is why I chose to support My Happy Village Cambodia.
They are an NGO (Non Government Organisation) who exist to help provide education, health and social infrastructure for the people of Prey Chrouk community, which is about 40km on the outskirts of Siem Reap in Cambodia.
At the moment, I am helping them to raise $18,000 so they can build a school for their community. I give 10% of what I turnover through Thought Cloud, and I would like to invite anyone who likes my blog and would like to pay it forward, to donate to them and help us to raise the money to build them a school.
Also one of my mantra’s and mottos in life and in business is ‘Do what you love & do good.’ And this is the best example of it. I love writing my blog, I love inspiring others with my learnings and stories and I love contributing to good causes that are close to my heart.
Why My Happy Village Cambodia?
When I was on my Round the World Trip travelling through South East Asia in 2011, I got to Cambodia in July and there was a profound shift in me. I still can’t quite explain how or why I felt differently, but the trigger was visiting Phnom Penn and starting to learn about the Khmer Rouge and the fact that they killed nearly 2 million of their own people back in the late 1970s.
I had been warned by friends and fellow travellers that it would be an eye opening and mind expanding experience to visit the Killing Fields and the S21 Prison, but I don’t think anything could have properly prepared me for what I experienced.
There were two particularly unsettling pieces of information that I learned while I was in Phnom Penn that have stayed with me til this day.
The Killing Tree
The Chankiri Tree or the Killing Tree in the Killing Fields was used for smashing the heads of small children and babies against to kill them, so they “wouldn’t grow up and take revenge for their parents deaths.’ And once they had been killed they were thrown in a mass grave, along with thousands of others.
Image reference – theidylldiaries.com
A school becomes a prison
The S21 Prison was originally a school. This was one of the oddest and strangest pieces of information for me to get my head around. When the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian Government and took control of the country, while throwing a lot of people out of Phnom Penn and killing many others as well, they converted a school into a prison.
Image reference – tuolsleng.com
When you visit Phnom Penn, you can visit this prison and it is an incredibly eery place to experience. From the outside, you know it is a school, it looks like a school and is laid out like a school. There are quadrants in the middle, classrooms etc. The only thing missing is the children.
It is only when you walk around the buildings, do you realise and understand how they converted the school into a prison.
The classrooms became torture rooms
In each room, there still remains blackboard, to remind you of it’s original purpose, but also in the room is a bed (where the victims were tortured) and a small metal box, where parts of the victims innards were put during and after the torture sessions.
Image reference – ronwalker.org
And the play area also became a place for torture. The swing set, was a place where they would suspend people upside down and dunk them into a big barrel of water, semi-drowning them in order to get information out of them, for where they could find other people to arrest and bring to the prison.
Having been brought up by two teachers and having such a love for learning and school, this was something that disturbed me quite deeply. How a place of such love, fun, creativity and innocence could have been turned into a place representing the exact opposite.
The Khmer Rouge
The reason for the Khmer Rouge‘s dictatorship, lead by Pol Pot is quite paradoxical in that they had a Marxist view of the world and wanted to create a classless country, but they believed that in order to do so, they would need to get rid of the cream of society, and also anyone who they believed could overthrow their leadership. Therefore they killed anyone in any position of power, education or creativity. Therefore they killed politicians, teachers, writers, artists, and anyone who wore glasses as they were deemed educated and could have posed a threat.
The silly thing is that by killing all of these people, they damaged their ability as a country to educate and develop their children, who would be the future caretakers of Cambodia.
The book that opened my eyes
It wasn’t until I got to Siem Reap and bought a copy of ‘First They Killed My Father‘ by Loung Ung, that I started to learn about the history of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. Coming from England, this is not something we learnt about at school. I was so saddened and upset by what I was reading, I couldn’t actually finish the book while I was in the country.
Image reference – harpercollins.com
All I did know was that I did not want to leave Cambodia without giving back in some way and helping a country that through execution, starvation, disease and forced labour the Khmer Rouge had systematically killed nearly 25% of it’s own people. It just seemed so senseless and unnecessary.
How I gave back to Cambodia
So, one afternoon after I had travelled back from a day visiting one of my favourite places on the planet (Angkor Wat), I went back to my backpackers and googled ‘volunteering and teaching English in Siem Reap’. It brought up an organisation, who I went and volunteered with for one week. It was a wonderful week, I was so happy to help out, teach English and spend time with the children. And during that time I made a very good friend in one of the teachers there by the name of Sophach.
Image references – me!
Sophach my Cambodian brother
He came up to me one day and asked me what I was doing after school and whether I would like to take a ride to the night market’s on his motorbike and I said yes. We went out for dinner and were chatting about our lives. He asked me to tell him about my family, and I spoke about my Mum and Dad and my sister and what an amazingly loving and kind family we all are. When I asked him about his family, he told me that both of his parents were dead and that he was an orphan.
I didn’t know how to respond, because I had no frame of reference. I have never known anyone who is an orphan. He told me that his Dad had been killed by the Khmer Rouge and his Mum had died not long afterwards. He had no brothers and sisters.
After sharing that with me, he then asked if I would be his sister? I had never been asked that before and wasn’t really sure how to respond, but I had never had a brother, so I accepted his kind offer and said that I could be his English sister and he could be my Cambodia brother.
During my visit he told me of his plans to set up his own school in the community that he is from.
His grandmother brought him up and sent him to University in Siem Reap, and his promise to her in return for supporting him in his upbringing and education, was that he would come back to his community and build and run a school there.
At the time, I thought it was a little ambitious, considering that he was only 22 at the time and had only been teaching for a few years, but I also knew, where there is a will, there is a way.
Anything is possible
And true to his word, just 6 months after I visited him in July 2011, he messaged me via Facebook to tell me that he had set up an NGO called My Happy Village Cambodia and invited me to help and support him.
When I left Siem Reap in July 2011 I promised that I would be back within a year and true to my word, I did go back, this time to Pre Chrouk to teach at Sophach’s school and to learn about his charity and understand what I could do to help.
It became apparent that they had a 5 year plan to raise $185,000 in order to buy land and build a school, and also provide a strong social infrastructure for the community in giving them health education, clean running water etc.
So I promised them that I would do anything I could to help their cause when I came back to Australia.
Since setting up my company Thought Cloud, I have decided to give 10% of my turnover (not profit) to them. I have also spread the good word about their cause, and a very good friend of mine (Rob) has already been out to spend time with them and teach English at the school.
Pay it forward
Being true to my word of following my intuition and living a life of love, it came to me today, to create this page on my blog and invite anyone who reads and likes my blog and would like to show their appreciation in some way, to pay that appreciate forward and donate to My Happy Village Cambodia and help them to raise the $18,000 that they need to build their school.
Because the Khmer Rouge killed nearly 2 million of their own people, I believe that Cambodia needs as much help as we can give them in order to aid them in educating the children of now, to help support and regenerate the country to succeed in the future. And this is why I have chosen to support My Happy Village Cambodia specifically. One community at a time, one school at a time, one student at a time, we can help heal Cambodia.
And in the Purpose box at the top, it would be great if you wanted to pop in ‘Kat Kinnie’s Blog‘ so they know the donation came from someone who likes my blog. Feel free to put your name in there as well if you wish.
Thank you so much in advance if you choose to donate.
Sending you lots of love, hugs and light,
Kat x x x