Life Changing in Cambodia (Part II)

It all ends up with even more

Rob O’Byrne from Logistics Bureau in Sydney has been busy not just painting but continuing his massively appreciated ritual of being the videographer recording personal observations along the way — and Hashima’s adding lovely colourful designs that the children are trying to emulate. And Freya and Lara are doing a brilliant job creating masses of colour over the newly created ‘tyre’ swings. Andrew, Vanessa and Jason are doing everything — judiciously leaving all the high bits to Jason. And poor Noel is suffering from something he ate the night before.

And Masami is leading it all — even to the extent of rushing to the store to buy more uniforms for the paint-effected clothing of the children.

Lunch is special too. Jason announces he and his customers are contributing to another playground for 104 children and more plans are mad by the Child’s Dream team to make that happen.

Then it’s goodbye to the morning children — hello to the afternoon children (significantly though, some morning children don’t go home — they’re loving this as much as we are).

Then, all too soon it seems, it’s time to exhaustingly hand everything over with a few short speeches plus some strange Cambodian games with all of the children and us.

And then something equally great awaits us for dinner — a dinner with the Child’s Dream team and 4 of the Senior Students they sponsor.

Dreams beyond

We discover some amazing things as the students — two of whom want to be doctors, one of whom wants to be a teacher and one of whom wants to be a ‘VERY GOOD Doctor’ — tell us more about their lives. Classes that begin at 6 in some cases, take a break for lunch at 12, back to school for ‘tuition’ until 8. And that’s 6 days a week.

They live together and are given funds to do that by Child’s Dream — they’re expected to mange those funds properly. They cook themselves and look after each other.

And the tuition is the key bit — teacher’s in Cambodia get between $30-$50 per month so they have to make it up with extra classes — classes that have to be paid for. And according to those that know, it’s here where the real learning takes place.

Of course, there’s no internet and they’re staggered by the iPad that expands photos. Not surprising though. Keep reading for why …

The night is about connection. And the Child’s Dream team (led admirably by Yem) do that well. To hear Yem’s story about life just after the Khemr Rouge with 4 armies still in the village and the use of landmines plus bullets to play with in the classrooms was compelling yet totally frightening stuff.

And then there’s pictures and handshakes, smiles and hugs as we head to the lift. And then we discover that the students have never been in a lift before.

Sleep comes easy again — just as well, tomorrow begins with a Siem Reap ‘must do’ — the visit to Angkor Wat to catch the sunrise.

The weight of history versus the light of spirit

So it’s off at 5:15 to join thousands of others. And along the way, you’re asked if you’d like tea or coffee by wandering young men and ladies. When you say ‘yes’, they say, ‘Great, my store is number 3 up there and I’m Angelina Jolie,” And they’re not kidding, the stores are labelled Mr. Rambo, Harry Potter, James Bond and yes, Angelina Jolie.

But there’s no ‘sunrise’ as such in the sense of the sun coming up like an range ball behind the temple. Instead, the idea is to catch the reflection of the temple in the lake before the sun actually comes up. And when that happens (which all of us found underwhelming) people leave missing the glorious actual sunrise.

Angkor Wat is impressive — no doubt about that. But if before you visit there you do what we did, visit the magical Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm where trees literally grow out of the stone in the most surprising of ways, then even with Rock Star’s impressive commentary, it’s still underwhelming in many ways.

After the visit to Bayon (which we squeezed into Day 1) Andrew put it like this, “Well, I’m no temple person and I wasn’t really looking forward to this part of our tour. But I tell you what — this is just spectacular — I am so glad I came.” And then, increasingly fascinated by all the twists and turns of Ta Prohm he got lost!

So from Angkor Wat to Sala Bai for lunch. It’s a stunning French restaurant that operates as an NGO. Fully 30% of its operating budget is met by the restaurant — it could easily be more if only they’d increase their prices — the rest by supporters around the world.

Lifting lives to unlimited potential

And it’s likely there’ll be more after this B1G1 Study Tour visit. This is one impressive place. Each January they start the search for just 100 late teenagers — kids who are really poor and generally speaking living rurally. They aim to find 100 people, look after them, teach them basic school skills, language skills and hospitality skills in the space of a year and then find them jobs in leading-edge hotels in Cambodia — as they put it ‘proper jobs, not slave jobs.’

And they way they do it is stunning. The selection criteria are staggering. The only students they look at on each application are those whose total family income is …….. wait for it ……. $300 PER YEAR.

Then the short-listed students have to do two tests, one on motivation and one on language and general knowledge. And if they pass that they then have a visit at home by one of Sala Bai’s people.

And when you meet the people, you’d have to say they love it. The students learn the basic school-type skills when they finish their shifts. They’re looked after in two houses and they do get paid! And tips are used to fund joint days out on holidays for the entire team.

The restaurant even has 4 hotel rooms so that the students can be trained as housekeeping staff as well as chefs, waiters and so on.

And the team at Sala Bai create the most motivating environment and one that has awesome systems in place too — as I said, I sense there might be lore supporters coming from around the world as we look to integrate them into B1G1.

Finally… sharing the joy of giving

And then two more trips still to go on this our final day — first to the fishing village where, as Noel pointed out, the water is 15 metres higher in rainy season.

So the houses here are built on massive wooden stilts. And its obvious here that poverty is rife too. One staggering difference — when you wave at people here, they don’t wave back; it’s as if the smiles you see everywhere else don’t exist here.

And then it’s out to the massive lake to head to a boat for our final cruise into the sunset (quite literally) with Freya and Lara emulating that famous scene in the Titanic movie. It’s a most beautiful sunset too.

Just the perfect setting for our final dinner with masses of reflections all around. ‘Life-changing’ sums it up in words and faces that no words on paper can.

People are stunned too to have been able to take the tour with B1G1 Founder, Masami Sato. And having been with her all week, they understand even more about the phrase they’d heard Masami use on a movie clip: “B1G1, a simple idea. Sharing the joy of giving — every second, every day and in every way.”

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About Paul Dunn

Paul is the chairman at B1G1 and a hugely respected and admired business leader too. He’s a 4-times TEDx speaker and he frequently travels around the world inspiring businesses with B1G1 and his amazing business insights.

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