Monday, February 23, 2015

February 21, 2015: Sad Farewell

Thursday was a quieter day around each project site with finishing touches (install toilet, fishing concrete, roof and doors) being complete by Mr. Son and ourselves.

Following a few photo ops, hugs and thanks we were off to lunch and then to a local school (Our School) located in Chamcar Bei where a school tour awaited. At the school we also provided donation of school supplies, books and tooth brushes. Additional donations of clothing were donated to EC for distribution to families in need at a later date. Funds were also provided to purchase filters for school water filtration systems.

Friday, we say good by tongue Spring Valley Resort (our home for the last two weeks) and begin our trip back to Phnom Penh.  Our lunch today was at "Friends Romdeng" restaurant where everyone was treated to tarantula (even a live one).

Where have the last two weeks gone? This is my third International Volunteer Experience (IVE) with DWC and first as a team leader. Without question, the last day is the most difficult. It is a time to reflect on the activities of past two weeks and to know that our contribution may be small in scope but huge in the hearts of those we have connected with. 

As we depart on extended vacation, or for home, we will carry in our hearts those experiences, memories and friendships, to be shared with family and friends (at home), reflected upon and cherished for a long time.  Equitable Cambodia (specifically Vy) is instrumental in ensuring the success of both our experience and also project completion. Maintaining communication lines between the DWC Team, contractors and families and ensuring all in country arrangements are in order. Vy, thank you so much. Lastly, I would like to thank our team:
  • Tom, Bill and Evey (Kamloops, BC)
  • Lindy (Prince George, BC) 
  • Lynda, my sister (Nanaimo, BC). 
  • Betty (Toronto, Ont.) 
  • Liz (Clearwater, BC) 
  • Jeries and Chelsea (Newmarket, Ont.)
Your desire and passion to help others has made this possible. I am truly grateful to have shared this IVE with you. A special thank you to all of you.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader
Cambodia: February 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18, 2015: Weekend Fun and Back to Work!

The last five days have flown by. Our weekend included a half day road trip to Kampot with a visit to the fish market, lunch at The Rusty Keyhole (famous for its ribs) and a foot massage at seeing hand massage (provided by blind masseuse). Our drive back to Kep was highlighted by a karaoke session to "Dancing Queen" lead by Chelsea. Back in Kep, everyone took time walking the beach, hiking in Kep national forest, relaxing at Spring Valley Resort and another massage for some. Dinner at the Spring Valley Resort included traditional Khmer food in a street vender format (an interactive eating experience enjoyed by everyone). I understand the passion fruit punch was a particular hit. Sunday was spent on Rabbit Island hiking the shoreline, sun worshiping and massage. Great relaxing day on the island.

We are now three days into week 2 and both teams have made amazing progress with pits dug, concrete pipes installed and back filled and brick work complete. The concrete finish is continuing at both sites.

Bill, Evy, Liz, Tom and Betty are working at the home of a local family and are treated with fresh coconut and bananas. Liz, one of our teachers on board and resident animal lover, has been tending to the farm animals, and conducting impromptu lessons and reading time with the children (a special experience for all involved).

Bill and Tom have worked tirelessly and creatively through the 35C temperatures and difficult ground conditions to dig the latrine pit. I understand the pit has an interesting spiral staircase. Betty and Evy have been busy laying bricks, applying and finishing concrete.

The second latrine is being constructed by Lynda, Lindy, Jeries, Chelsea and Don at the women handy craft project in Odong. The project provides training in various crafts (weaving, jewelry making) and an opportunity for the women to earn income. Our efforts are guided by our smiling and quiet contractor referred to as Uncle (or Po, his Khmer name). He ensures the site is ready for us each day and quietly guides us through our paces ensuring an acceptable finish. The digging of our pit was a team effort with everyone taking a turn in the pit.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader
Cambodia. February 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

February 13, 2015: Significant Progress

Wednesday and Thursday were focused days of work with considerable progress on both irrigation gates.

Wednesday's effort was rewarded with happy hour at The Veranda...needless to say there was much laughter (unfortunately some at Bill's expense). 

Friday was a special and eventful day. Our day started with visit to a local market to purchase a few items (flowers, fruit and incense) for a special event later that morning. We were blessed with a traditional Khmer prayer, chanting and memorial to Larry Steele, Lindy's husband. We were all blessed to be able to share in this special moment with Lindy. It was very beautiful. 

Following the Khmer ceremony we all put the finishing touches to the irrigation gate and then proceeded to the Vine for an early lunch. This was not to be a normal lunch.

Lunch as usual was exceptional, however as we were getting ready to leave a significant amount of smoke was noticed about 300 meters west of the Vine Resort. There gusty winds and the appearance that the fire was approaching the resort. There was a significant concern that the vine would be impacted, and staff (with assistance from DWC staff) were actively working on protecting the resort. Later in the day, the fire was put out and was reported to be about 7 hectares. The Vine was not impacted.

Following the excitement of the fire we visited the women's crafting project to view the making of scarves. Dinner today was at the Sailing Club where we experienced a magnificent sunset, great food and a bit jazz. What a day.

We have had a wonderful week. To paraphrase a comment made earlier today, "this is like no other holiday experience" and yet we have another week to go. Bring on the latrines.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader
Cambodia: February 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015: Focused On The Task At Hand

Arriving at the worksite, the water had been drained and prepared for the inlet and outlet walls. There was a different feel around the project today...focused. Fairly quiet around each site as everyone was busy with task at hand. Today was also a special day in honour of Larry Steele, Lindy's beloved husband who passed recently. We all shared in Lindy's heartfelt blessing and dedicated this site in Larry's name. We are a team of eleven.

After lunch, brick laying continued followed with application of a finishing coat of cement to walls.

Again, a well deserved swim at Kep Beach greeted everyone after a good days work.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader
Cambodia: February 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

February 9, 2015: Ferris Wheels and Muddy Feet!

First day on project started with a carnival type atmosphere. What started as a photo opportunity, turned into an unexpected early morning ferris wheel ride at a small carnival on route to Odong community.

Then it was on to begin construction of two irrigation gates. The gates will be used to manage water flow while providing access across the many irrigation channels. 

Our extended travel to Kep (32 - 36hrs) over the last two days did not deter anyone from enthusiastically getting started with both hands and bare feet. Prior to lunch, footings were excavated for both gates, rock was placed and cement mixed. Then it was off to the Vine Restaurant for lunch.

The afternoon started as everyone expected with placement of the concrete pipes when unfortunately one of the near by gates was opened and resulting in the flooding of our work site. Amazing to see everyone's quick response to remedy the situation (creating a new ditch block up stream and dewatering the project sites). A slight delay. Huge effort by everyone today rewarded with a well deserved swim at Kep beach (muddy clothes and all) and a refreshing Angkor Beer.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader 
Cambodia: February 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February 8, 2015: Arrival to Phnom Pen

After about 32 to 36 hours of total travel, we arrive at Phnom Pehn around noon, just a little weary eyed and jet lagged. Greeted on arrival by Vy (or gracious host) and Betty. Betty arrived a day ahead (without luggage) and took in few sites (Royal Palace, national museum, Olympic stadium, Wat Bo, killing fields and genocide museum before meeting us on Sunday).

Next was a relatively short (4hrs) ride to Kep. Road travel in Cambodia is an experience where speed limits are not much of a factor and where one of your most important vehicle features is the the horn.

Our home in Kep for next two weeks will be the Spring Valley Resort.

Don Brimacombe
DWC Volunteer Team Leader
Cambodia: February 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015: Reflections on Lessons Learned

Today I really learned what solidarity is.  It is being a friend and not a savior; working side by side to improve our world.  It really hit me today that just because I am privileged, in every way possible, does not mean that I am better or above anyone, anywhere.  Seeing the workplace, the market, and the school - seeing how they were all part of the global community - really changed my perspective.  Today is the most meaningful day of my life because I have realized that I have come to love the people I have been alongside for the past few days so much that leaving them makes me really sad.  But, leaving has also given me a purpose to come back!

Mariana Salazar
DWC Volunteer Participant
Cambodia.  January 29, 2015.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28, 2015: Creating Lasting Change

Today was our last day at the work site in Kep.  I worked mostly by laying bricks and cementing down things.  Quite an adventure, I'd have to say!  I worked closely with a local that I nicknamed "The Laughing Man" because he laughed constantly and was smiling every second that he could.  I want to be the type of person that deserves a nickname like that.  The laughing man taught me about being the best kind of person in the world by doing nothing but being himself.  I am so glad I went on this trip because now I will never be a tourist again.  People go on vacation, do their thing, see some sights, eat some food, and then leave.  The city and country go on like they were never there.  The work we have done makes a change.  It will help people for years to come.  Kep district will remember DWC.

Julia Giraudi
DWC Volunteer Participant
Cambodia.  January 28, 2015

January 28: Living on a Dollar

Today, I woke up, had breakfast, and then the kids who were working on the latrines got to go to the market.  Many people in Cambodia live on less than a dollar a day.  My group was given one dollar in the market to buy food for two meals.  The market was extremely different from all the grocery stores and markets in Canada.  All the food was fresh and there were even live chickens.  The market was crowded with little huts of Cambodians selling food.  Flies were everywhere, swarming over the raw meat.  It was interesting to see how different our culture is from Cambodian culture.

Trying to buy food at the market with only one dollar was very hard!!  Things were expensive.  We tried bargaining with the women but they couldn't understand us.  It was challenging.  Half way through the market, I began to think about the people in Cambodia that actually live on a dollar a day.  It made me sad, especially when I realized how hard it really is to do.  This was an experience I will never forget.

Alexandria Collymore
DWC Volunteer Participant
Cambodia.  January 28, 2015.

January 28, 2015: Smile and the World Smiles Back!

Today I woke up and my whole body was sore from the work I did the day before.  The group started to build a watergate in a rural place in Kep.  It is amazing to see the difference with only 20 minutes of driving how we can go from a tourist area to a non-paved road with tattered houses; the difference really hit us all greatly.  The reality about the level of poverty in the world is something that those from Canada are not usually exposed to, but from this experience we can see how the majority of the world lives their lives. 

From working in the rural area I was able to interact with local people living in the area.  I've never regretted something in my life so much as not learning the language of Khmer.  The language barrier is such a big thing that I never noticed before, but being here, I feel sad that I couldn't communicate properly.  Although we cannot understand one another, the people here are so nice and welcoming that we just get by with gestures or actions.  When the locals, including the kids and adults, smile, I can't do anything but smile back because their smiles are so beautiful and warm.  All of the people here are happy and nothing how I expected them to be.  Just being with them and interacting with them has been a life changing experience.  My whole perspective on life has changed in a matter of days, and I want to change as a person but there is so much to take in right now that I am only confused. 

Momo Sakudo
DWC Volunteer Participant
Cambodia.  January 28, 2015.