My story like so many others starts with travelling to Cambodia and having aspirations of volunteering with a Cambodia not-for-profit to be able to give something of myself to help those less fortunate.
Finding a Cambodia not-for-profit or how it found me:
I met a lovely couple, Paul & Kerry and they shared their stories of volunteering with projects at Shine. In it’s early days, it was offering free education for the 12-20 students with one Khmer teacher Piseth and a few volunteers. I thought to myself – this sounds like something I could do, offer my time to help with improvements.
Kerry, Paul and I were members of a walking/running group named Sihanoukville Hash House Harriers (ShvH3). With ShvH3 funds we were able to donate. They struck up a personal friendship with Piseth and his children, so it was no surprise to me when they relocated that they donated a lot of their household belongings to Piseth and Shine.
Soon after one of our ShvH3 members passed away. His widow was relocating and had many clothes for men and women and many teaching aids. Together we decided to follow suit and donate to Shine. After a quick call to Piseth explaining who we were he arrived to pick up Shine’s new donations… Here started my friendship with Piseth and Shine…
Who starts a Cambodia not-for-profit?
I connected on Facebook with Suzanne, Shine’s CEO and Founder, and listened to her videos about this “both terrifying and exciting” project she was embarking on. I was not only impressed but very inspired by her pure passion for this small community in Cambodia that she had once lived amongst. It was bigger than just the students, it was also about their families, their community, many of whom she had known for a few years. This personal approach is what appealed to me about this Cambodia not-for-profit. Suzanne was someone who knew first hand the hardship these families lived with every day. It was wonderful to meet Suzanne on her next visit and her ‘right hand man (lady)’ Martina. We chatted a lot about their goals. This is when they planted the seed of me doing some volunteering myself.
Our daughter Pearl planned a trip to Cambodia. She then organised a fundraiser at the school she was a teacher at. She bought with her a very generous donation of AUD$900. Being a teacher herself she personally understood the necessity and importance of education for these children if the seemingly endless wheel of poverty was to be broken. Piseth was more than happy to take her out to Shine for a tour and share their current and future plans.
Later in the year my parents visited Cambodia. We organised to meet Piseth at Shine. Piseth was so gracious in telling us the background story of Shine. To hear how Suzanne and Piseth put their heads and their hearts together to keep the school afloat after it was all but closed was very touching. To hear how they now had 80 students enrolled for the new year. It struck a chord with me and my parents. I decided there and then this Cambodia not-for-profit organisation was an important one and I wanted to do something more to help contribute to this wonderful cause.
How to help a Cambodia not-for-profit:
A New Year, A New Start… I spoke with the ShvH3 members about starting a monthly fundraiser. It wasn’t always a lot each month but every dollar helped especially as the student numbers increased to 120 and 2-3 more Khmer teachers came on the payroll. My parents also contributed with a regular monthly donation. It was wonderful seeing the smiles when we would go out to Shine to deliver the donation each month and seeing changes as they were happening.
I knew I still wanted to do more, get hands on at Shine. Mid year I had a friend travelling to Cambodia. Serena was going to be volunteering at Shine as she had been following my posts of this Cambodia not-for-profit I was supporting. This was all the motivation I needed. I contacted
Suzanne and offered my time. It was such an amazing and special experience to share with a close friend. Sadly she went home, happily I stayed on for another 15 months.
The word was getting around about ShvH3’s support and my personal support for this amazing Cambodia not-for-profit – Shine… International H3 visitors and friends generously donated cash and school supplies; laptops, reading glasses, footballs, books, pens and pencils . Members relocated and donated household goods, food, a tv, a printer, a sewing machine and even a bicycle to Shine. We had donations of 5 x computers, various furniture pieces and kitchen tools donated from closing businesses owned by members and friends. At Christmas 35 of the Thailand Pattaya H3 group came over and organised a fundraiser trail from Sihanoukville to Otres raising US$710. One member bought with him 130 stuffed toys from his Thailand factory to present to the kids. It really was humbling how generous everyone was becoming. It was even more special now that I was one of the Shine team and could see the difference these donations were making to the kids and their education.
I’m not an English teacher myself but there where so many other things I could offer as a volunteer such as teacher’s assistant, dancing, sports, yoga, art, craft, sewing, games and community visits. It really gave me a great sense of worth and a lot of fulfilment being around the students watching them grow. Seeing them embracing their lessons, improving their life skills and gaining an understanding of how this will help them in their future. You can see it in their beautiful smiling faces. End of term presentations bring tears to my eyes. You can see how proud they are of themselves for their achievements.
I truly recommend Shine if you are looking to volunteer in a Cambodian not-for-profit or contribute in any way with donations or supplies. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You will not be disappointed and will take so much away from the experience but this is nothing compared to what you will be giving.