June Update 2019 - 2019 trip is now booked in, soon to receive information on the families we are helping! 2019 GOAL; 3 HOUSES!
We are excited to share that the trip for this year is now booked in, and at the time of writing our local contact and contact from Australia are on the search for the next families that we will be helping. We hope this year to build 3 houses so please share the love and help make this happen. We have already locked in two houses for 2019 but hope to add a 3rd one so please share with anyone that would be interested in helping out!
November 2018 Update - 2 more houses complete!
After the life changing time we had in Cambodia last year in 2017 it was time to return again to help more families. Since returning from the 2017 trip, life back at home has been quite different. Different for the better and mostly in regards to my outlook on everything and opportunities in life. I found myself at almost all gatherings or business events somehow getting into conversations about Cambodia. After others back at home watched the videos, saw the many photos and heard all of the stories, the entire journey became real for everyone. The impact that was made in 2017 reached a lot of people and as a result many generous people came forward and wanted to be a part of it in 2018. I had always said I will make sure I come back in 2018, and it wasn’t long after being back that through other people’s support I quickly realised that the 2018 trip will definitely happen and we would help even more people.
The 2017 house build was mostly donated by myself but now that people could see the results, many others wanted to be involved with the next trip, some in a very big way. I even had one family, Andy & Mary Nematalla, gather all of the funds together to build their own house for a family in Cambodia, absolute champions! I will make sure I name everyone that helped out as I go through but this time around we had more than enough to do 2 complete new houses with the additional funds to go towards other crucial supplies for the families including others in the village.
Having been before, we headed off for this trip far more comfortable and excited. This time however we didn’t have our Australian contact with us, Deb. So we were a little anxious of the unknown.
Day 1 and our local contact Sabet picked us up from in town. We were quite excited to see Sabet, and I think he was excited to see us too. He greeted us with a typical Cambodia awkward hug. They all do this type of hug where they put their head down and into your chest while reaching out to hug at the same time. Awkward but beautiful at the same time.
One of the families standing in front of their existing 'house'
We went straight to the local markets to pick up supplies and we immediately felt at home again. Smiles everywhere, including ourselves, we were already getting warm and fuzzy. Warm also because at this point we are probably already sweating from the 40 degree heat. We then start the trip out to the new village to meet the new families for the first time and start the build.
After just 5 minutes of travel and we were in the middle of nowhere. Siem Reap is a big town, but it quickly turns into just endless fields and the odd villages. A very bumpy 40 minutes later and we start getting close to our new village. The last stretch of this trip was a narrow and bumpy dirt road with water on either side. We could see kids swimming, buffalos, cows and some fisherman. It was nice scenery but clearly a lot poorer than any other places we had been to so far.
We were greeted by about 20 locals upon arrival. Once again full of smiles, they were all standing around waiting for us. This is a day that they have been waiting their whole lives for; most never get the chance to have their own house so it was very special. It is hard to describe the initial feeling of being there. Many locals just stand and stare, with a smile of course. For a lot of them they may not have ever met anyone from outside of the village. The village has chickens & chicks running around as well as many dogs. The dogs are cute but they don’t engage with dogs like we do, they are just for protection so it is not often you even get to pat a dog. The two families quickly gathered around and stood in front of their existing lean-to. We were blown away to think how they have been living in these places for their whole lives. They had 1 or 2 walls made of palm leaves, and looked like they were 1 decent storm away from crumbling. We meet the families, get some photos and then start by pulling down the old houses. Just as we guessed, both houses only took 10 minutes to pull down. We then started hand digging the holes for the support columns. Hannah sat down all of the kids and handed out to them colouring pencils, paper, and activity books. We were quickly reminded how grateful the kids are even at the simplest things. At first the kids hold onto all of their new possessions and are so excited they don’t want to use them. After a short time Hannah looks like she is running a pre-school with close to 20 kids now all sitting and drawing and having the best time ever. Each kid took their turn in showing us their works of art, it was so exciting to see how proud of themselves they were.
Time to start digging!
Houses taking shape after the first day!
I hand out Marques Flooring hats and shirts to the builders and locals that have volunteered to help and we get right into building the houses. This time 2 houses side by side. Even though everything is done by hand, things happen pretty quickly and by the end of the day we had the 9 posts in place for both houses. It is amazing to see how they work and amazing that none of them get injured. Safety equipment doesn’t exist with a lot of them either bare foot or in thongs. My day consisted of 30 minutes of work, die in the heat, play with the kids and re-hydrate, 30 minutes of work, then repeat. By the end of the day we had both drank excess of 5L of water. We tried to tell ourselves it wasn’t as hot as last time, but it definitely was! We wrap up day one exhausted and humbled and head back to our hotel.
Play time with the kids!
Day 2 and this time we are heading back to see our family from last year. Again we go past the local markets to grab some essentials for them like food and clothing. We were a bit apprehensive about this day not knowing if they were going to be there or not and if the kids would be there too. Of course they don’t have phones so we just have to hope, especially because we had lots of gifts for them including little framed pictures from the 2017 trip.
Upon arriving to the house we noticed a young man walking up the road, to our delight it was Kang, the father of the family we built the house for, some early success! He is excited to see us and helped us unload the Tuk Tuk and begin the walk to their village. In the months leading up to this day they had experienced a lot of wet weather, so to get to their village we had to walk a bit of a distance through the long grass in ankle to knee deep water, quite scary to say the least. We finally get to the house and the mother Srey Eup is there and the now 2 year old daughter Nita, we simply cant believe it. Mum runs straight into the house and brings out the framed picture of all of us from last year. At this point we melt and a huge wave of happiness comes over us. They looked so happy and Nita was so much more grown up already. We start handing out all of their gifts including the pictures from last year and to our delight two other young girls that Hannah fell in love with last year come running in. They had heard we were there and came to see us. Almost instantly they yell out ‘Hannah’ in their cute accent and by now I think Hannah is holding back the tears. It is amazing to see just how much better life is for them since last year and was one of my favourite moments from the trip. We told them we would be back but I don’t think they believed us, so they were very excited to see us again! We spent some time translating and chatting and playing with the kids before we head off to our next stop, to see the blind lady from last year and drop off more supplies.
Seeing our family from 2017!
The road to get to the blind lady is even worse, the water level was even higher now and most roads were flooded over. Sabet seemed totally unfazed by it all and just continued on driving through, the last part however was so deep, again we had to get out to walk the last part and stumble through the water. We find out the blind lady hasn’t been to her house for a while now, the water is so deep that she has had to live in her mums house which has water lapping up to it. The blind lady was so excited for us to be there, we were greeted with huge hugs once she knew who it was. For someone who is completely blind with 4 kids, she definitely makes up for it with love and is still so happy.
Day 3 and we return back to the new village to see how everything is going. We are greeted on the way into the village by many waves and kids yelling ‘hello’ in the distance, we aren’t exactly strangers now and they are all very happy for us to be there. Wow they have been busy and this time when we get to the new houses we are greeted with even more kids! Both houses have the frames up and the roof on and now it is time to finish the floor and start sheeting the walls. Hannah greets the kids again with more gifts and this time we have close to 30 kids who are so excited to see us. I do some physical work on this day but the kids keep coming to grab me to play games with them, I can’t say no!
The two houses taking shape
They show us all kinds of clapping games and drawings and colouring in that they have done since we last saw them. By now we are starting to feel like extended family, kids are climbing all over us fighting for our attention. Lunch time comes around and this is the part of the day that is a bit awkward. Part of the plan is to bring a local cook with us as well as food for ourselves, the builders, and all of the families in the village. Where it gets awkward is no matter how hard we try, they will not eat anything until we have finished our lunch. We try every time, but once again they sit us down and bring us the food and sit around respectfully and wait for us to finish. This time however we managed to get some of the kids to join us, after being yelled at from the parents and we assure them it is okay, a few sit down and enjoy some lunch with us. Some of the kids go off to have a swim and return with a small handful of snails, their typical lunch. We of course scoff our lunch down and then everyone starts to grab themselves some food.
By the end of the day and both houses are getting close to completion. While we are there we ask Sabet to find out what essentials they will need, tomorrow will be the handover day which includes giving them a few extra luxuries to make it even more exciting.
On the final day Sabet picks us up as normal except this time he has already been to the markets and grabbed most of the things we will be giving them today, 50 kg of rice, insect nets, pots and pans and a few other essentials. At this point myself and Hannah have already made a list of the extra things that they would love. We are on a mission now, walking around the local markets, the only westerners there and we have a lot of people curious at what we are up to. 32 x soccer balls, musical instruments, books and school gear, hats, a handbag for the mums, a nice new shirt for them all and of course mirrors, they love mirrors!
The Tuk Tuk is completely loaded, we have things hanging from the roof and we don’t really have room to even see. Sabet once again was unfased at the extra 200 odd kg loaded on his motorbike and off we go to the village.
Arriving into the village and we have a lot of locals waiting for us this time as today is the big day. Whilst the houses haven’t been officially handed over yet, we pretend we don’t know that they have already slept in the house the night before and moved some things in. I would too if I was in their position!
Of course with so many things loaded onto the Tuk Tuk they all help us to unload to countless bags of goodies for everyone and by this point we can feel their excitement at what is to come.
We first sit all the kids down in a big semi-circle, we learnt last year that if we just hand stuff out, it gets way out of hand and they end up crowding around us and we quickly lose track of who has received what.
Present time, those smiles! :)
One by one we hand out all of the presents for the kids, first the school books, then the colouring pencils, then sharpeners, one by one their faces light up, no matter what it is and they guard each of these items with their life. Then it is time to hand out the soccer balls. As the first soccer balls comes out all the kids jump up, not realising we have one for each of them, the kids thought they may have to battle it out, yelling ‘me, me, me!’ You can imagine how excited they were once every single one of them got a ball, including some of the adults hovering around. These are the moments that make all of this worth it. Now that the kids are occupied there are soccer balls going everywhere, kids drawing, kids playing their musical instruments, the entire mood in the village has completely changed now, it is like Christmas!
The families at this point gather at the base of the stairs of their new house and wait for ‘handover’. We gather all of their extra items and present them out on the matt for them to see. Then one by one we hand them the extra gifts, and for each gift we hear from everyone in the village ooohs, ahhs, and woos, each building in excitement as they receive a nice new shirt each, mirrors, hats, & handbags for the mothers.
The two very happy families for the handovers in front of their new houses!
This year I prepared a speech and had it translated to Khmer for it to be read to the families upon handover. It was at this point last year that I started crying and could barely get my words out so this time it was far easier and the message was more understood by them, each nodding and smiling from ear to ear. We complete the whole event with some celebration photos with everyone and then begin to play with all the kids in the village!
It then comes time for some sad goodbyes to everyone. It was easier this time as we now know we will definitely be back to see them but it is still a sad event leaving with many of the kids chasing the Tuk Tuk down the road waving good bye, it feels like something from a movie.
Whilst the new houses were complete we had a couple more surprises for Sabet & Rett, our local contacts. First we took Sabet to a department store to buy some brand new shoes. It was a very interesting experience as the first store we went to didn’t have right size. Sabet however not wanting to miss out on his chance for new shoes kept just saying, ‘yes this one’ even though we could see his toes squished into the end of the shoe. It took us a while to assure him we would go to another store before he was happy to look elsewhere. Looking back we could tell he was worried that if the first store didn’t have the shoe for him that he would miss out entirely. We get to another store and find the perfect shoe for him. Sabet finds a pair of brand new Nikes, and Sabet of course with a heart of gold is still trying to negotiate the price of the shoes down for us. At this point I thought, ‘if I spend $60-$90 on shoes for him, I think it is money well spent after everything he does for us and the people of Cambodia.’ To my delight, the shoes were only $38. Yes, $38 for a brand new pair of real Nike shoes, we definitely get ripped off back at home. Nonetheless Sabet can’t believe it, hugging us over and over again, including Hannah! (Males don’t often hug females except for partner or family). It was a moment we wish we got on film!
We then invite Sabet, Rett and both of their families to lunch in town. They both ask us countless times if it is okay and if they can bring their family, including kids. We keep assuring them it is fine, bring everyone! I remember one of the kids turning up with a Marques Flooring hat on and he thought it was so cool that we both had the same hat on! We sit down to lunch, 12 of us in total, at this point we find out that none of them had ever been out for a meal ever. We have to force them to order whatever they want as we can see they are hesitant, trying to share meals between them. In the end, they did order what they wanted, the kids had soft drink, ice cream and their favourite meal, and it was probably one of my favourite moments of the trip. It was at this point where Hannah got a bit emotional watching these beautiful families enjoying their restaurant meal and I wasn’t too far behind her. All of this, and it only cost us $40 for lunch & drinks for 12 people, ridiculous!
Sabet our local legend
All of us enjoying a meal together after the houses are complete.
As the trip comes to a close we say our goodbyes to Sabet, Rett and their families but assure them that we will be back next year. Overall it was an incredible successful trip and one that I will remember forever. Each time I come away with important reminders on what life is really all about. Whilst I have plans to continue doing this every year I can see that each trip is going to be special for its own reasons. I am so in love with the people of Cambodia and I can confidently say they have the nicest people in the world, yet need so much help to live a life they deserve.
I would like to make a special mention for a few people and business that were involved in this trip;
Andy & Mary Nematalla
Jim Hilston – Hilston Wood Floors
Clint – Xpression Timber
Alex – AJ Kenny Air
Manny – EGI Tiles
Jill & Martin - MAIA Therapies & Case Management
Robyn W – Welcome Change Realty
Alex Guthrie – Life Bi Design
Behzad – Live Timber Flooring
Kayla & Izaac
Mr & Mrs Turtle
Mitch – Azure IT
Julia & Sam
Jacob H – JSH Haulage
Debby & Pat T
If you want to be involved with 2019 please get in touch with me. I am already making some early plans to return in October 2019 but with the huge interest I may even return in April 2019 as well. There are many ways you can be involved so please contact me if you are interested. I guarantee you will not regret it and you will definitely fall in love with them too! Thank you so much if you took the time to read this!
Remember 100% of all donations go directly to Cambodia. All my time is volunteer and I cover all of my own expenses.
September 2018 Update - new families:
Only 3 weeks until we go!!! We now have more information on the families we are helping.
Location: Roka Yea village, Koev Pour commun Pouk Distrik (Siem Reap).
Even poorer area compared to 1st trip. They have a small stream nearby and live off fishing and selling some of the fish, so very little to work with.
Father's name: Yean Pek, 35 y/o
Mother's name: Yon Srey Lea, 36 y/o
Son's name: Ren Pro Pie, 14 y/o
Father's name: Rous Poun, 42 y/o
Mother's name: Yon La, 42 y/o
Daughter's name: Leak Srey Lu, 18 y/o
Son's name: Leak Vicheka, 15 y/o
Grandson's name: Leak Sophon, 1 y/o
There are plenty of other people in this village that will probably end up living in these houses but these are the names of the immediate families. We are still a bit short of donations for these two houses plus we would love to be able to get them additional items (clothing & food) I am going to personally put forward anything else i need to to give them a big head-start but for anyone wanting to be involved there are still plenty of opportunities!
We are so excited to be back very soon!!!
September 2018 Update (3 weeks to go!):
Update on our 1st family from last year.
For those that have been watching the journey from the beginning we have been sent some updates from our first family. Look at how much the baby girl has grown up already! The family are doing much better of course. We are going to visit them to give them more food and more items they need but they are doing much better over all. So rewarding to see the change!!!
2017, our first family
2018 update, look how much she has grown up!!!
July 2018 update:
We now have approval from the village chief and we no have the photos of the two families that we will be helping. In this village we are going to be building 2 houses!! We are told it is in even poorer conditions than our first family. There are lots of people and kids in this village so it will be a huge experience! They may not know what it means to have your photo taken but they definitely know things are going to get a whole lot better in their village! 2018 Update and NEW GOAL! (October 2018)
Exciting news - three villages this year!
Since our trip in September the buzz about Cambodia has not left us, if anything, it possibly grew.
Our family in Cambodia is doing well, the father finds work a lot more often now and the little girl has recovered from Dengue Fever. It has been great to get updates on how they are doing and we can't wait to visit them again.
With the buzz still well and truly alive we now have an even better designed house as well as packaged everything up for the family and villages to make it easier to return and help more! October could not come sooner!
Our GOAL for this year is to return and to build three houses in three different villages. This would inlcude a water well, 50kg of rice, kitchen utensils, kids school books and toys, clothes, you name it, a complete set up!
For the the first one we completed in Septmber 2017 we funded these ourselves. With so many others wanting to get involved we now want to see what we can do with the power of lots of people (and some businesses maybe too!) We can make this massive - for sure!
Once again because there is no charity or admin and as the money goes directly to the source with local contacts we can get a lot done for a small amount of money. With everything they need, we can do this for $2,400AUD plus $350AUD for a water well if that is needed as well.
If you want to be involved, or you know any businesses that would like to sponsor a whole house or even half a house, we would be happy to take any of your business merchandise with us to give out to the village (clothes, hats, toys etc) and grab some great pictures so you can show more people the impact made - and give your business a bit of a plug too!
We are so excited for this to happen, please contact either myself @joshmarques or Hannah @smithstandard if you have any questions! Update after first successful trip Oct 2017
For original with pictures visit: http://marquesflooring.com.au/news/exciting-news-joshs-charity-trip-cambodia
Last month, my partner Hannah and I embarked on a lifechanging journey to Cambodia. We ventured out into a small village with the hope of helping many people, young and old, who desperately needed a better chance at life. Having done a lot of volunteer work here in Australia I had mixed feelings about what to expect.
Firstly, I was travelling to a country where I had never visited before, and then proceeded to travel miles away from the nearest city (where many tourists are site seeing, relaxing and enjoying cheap food and drinks) to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. To make it even more challenging, it was close to 40-degree heat and with no power or water, just the items we brought ourselves - far from the luxuries that Australians enjoy at home. Boy, it turns out i had nothing to worry about - the fear of the unknown and testing environment quickly disappeared as we arrive at the village and saw many children (and some adults) running to greet us with huge smiles on their faces. We felt like family almost immediately.
Our reason for the trip was to personally fund (with Marques Flooring) the building of a house for a young family. The father, Kang, his wife, Srey Eup and their young daughter Nita were currently living in what we would call a lean-to. Basically, some palm trees and some timber, providing them almost no protection from the elements. All it would take was a little storm and it would be flattened. Part of the task was to also help build the new house, all by hand. Without the use of any power tools, it was a very interesting task.
Whilst it was a slow process, it was fascinating to see how they build houses without the use of power tools and even most hand tools. Locals from the surrounding villages travelled to help out as we slowly went through the process of digging the holes for the footings, building the base, the walls and of course, to install the flooring - a task they saved for me now knowing that I have timber flooring business (I handed many Marques Flooring hats when we first arrived.) Their flooring was quite a bit different from home however, all hand-nailed, small strands of stripped down bamboo... it took forever! The heat was unbelievable, we would have been drinking 4-6L of water per day and sweating it straight out. No need for a bathroom stop, which was lucky, as there wasn't a bathroom!
During our time in the village there was a of course a lot of playing games with the local kids. Many took a liking to Hannah, and I distinctly remember hearing the constant laughter and cheer from some of the happiest kids you will ever see. These little angels have none of the electronics, toys or even sporting equipment that most kids would have, yet they are still so incredibly happy. It was a very humbling experience and we quickly fell in love with them, and them us. So much that they wouldn't let us leave. It didn't take long to realise something quite mind-blowing for us and them - when we were trying to film 'selfie' videos with them. Most of these kids we don't think would have ever seen their own reflection. These children were completely mesmerised by seeing something move the same way as them on the screen... it is amazing to stop and think about it.
They showed us many of the games they play and the songs they sing, and no, not hit songs that we know. You could imagine the excitement from everyone when we returned on the last day with tonnes of toys, balls, clothing and drawing and writing material. It was incredible. These little ones have an incredible imagination, you should see how well they can draw and colour. They LOVE anything with colour and drew us a few pictures to take home with us (these are now pinned on the fridge).
While there, the locals cooked us lunch over a fire and insisted I try their 'rice wine'. Wow what a kick that gave me. I had to concentrate that little bit more when hand nailing the flooring after lunch that was for sure!
In the end, we ended up scrapping some of our relaxation days and visited some other villages to help out with various situations, including a young father that had been bitten by a Cobra. We had a bad feeling that he may not have been receiving the treatment needed and fortunately, we were able to get him to a hospital, to not only save his leg, but his life. Whilst the hospital was not that expensive ($90 usd) it would be more than he would earn in an entire year!
On the last day, we did what they call a handover ceremony. Here, we officially handed over the house to the family along with plenty of gifts like hammocks, clothing, cooking utensils and of course to make mum feel special, we got her a mirror and a handbag! I have to say, this entire thing was by far the most rewarding and humbling experience of my life. Yes, I cried, we all cried, in both happiness and sadness and I already can't wait to go back.
During our time there, through additional fundraising, we were also able to build a water well (only $200 usd) so now the whole village finally has fresh water, a massive improvement we definitely take for granted back at home.
When we returned to our accommodation it really hit home as to how much of an impact we had just made. Since being in Cambodia, word must have spread around our accommodation as to what we were doing and on the last day we were greeted by the General Manager, along with many of the staff members that wanted to personally thank us for what we had done. But the most moving part of this was when one of the staff members who accompanied us to our room told us his story. In short, just two years ago, he was in the same position as this family. As a result of someone building a house for him, it moved him up in the level of respect/status which then allowed him to get education, which then allowed him to get a job. And not just a regular job, a good paying job, something quite rare in Cambodia. It was so humbling to think how much different 'our family' will now live and I can't wait to visit them again in the near future.
Overall, this was an amazing time in our lives and I think everyone needs to experience at some point in their life. For both of us, it was definitely a life-changing experience and has totally changed my outlook on many things. After such a moving experience, my plan is to now continue to do this for many more families and villages and return as regularly as I can. I have a very unique opportunity whereby through the contacts I have in place, it means that 100% of all funds go directly to the cause. There is absolutely no administration whatsoever, which means we can make a far greater impact with less money. I have already been contacted by several 'charities' that have quoted me 2 - 3x the price to do exactly the same thing - quite disgusting really. If anything, this motivates me more to see just how much of an impact I can make. There are literally hundreds of thousands more people just like this in Cambodia that need help. What I have written here is only part of what we experienced and saw whilst over there. Some of the deeper things we heard and saw were horrifying, and I want to do everything that I can to give opportunities to those that need them. All in all, Cambodians are the nicest people I have ever met and Cambodia definitely has a place in my heart.
For anyone that wants to contribute, please leave a note for what specifically you would like it to go towards and I will personally deliver it and get footage so you can see just how big the impact is for yourself! :)
Thank you so much for reading through this. As they say in Khmer (Cambodian) - Arkoun Chraen (thank you very much)Original Journey - Written June 2017, trip and house completed in September 2017.
I am heading over to Cambodia in September and while i am there I will be personally funding (and helping build) a much needed home for a young family.
Meet Houme, Hime and their daughter Srey Net. This is their current partly still standing home in Cambodia.
￼That's Houme and his daughter in the bakground.
Houme like many, work when they can find it. Sometimes he works away in rice fields for 12 hours a day for approximately $2.
In short, Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries. Living conditions are hazardous. Children are sometimes abandoned by their parents and left to die. Women are trafficed. It's a nation struggling to catch back up from the genocide, which claimed more than 3 million victims. Teachers, political figures, free thinkers, and artists were the main targets of the killings, further pushing Cambodia into a socio-economic spiral that's almost impossible to climb out of.
A close friend of mine who frequents Cambodia & Vietnam has been helping in various ways for other families with their own funds for several years. In doing so they have been able to set up a direct way whereby the money goes directly towards the building of the home making it a very low cost to do so.
This means that to build a liveable home it costs only $1500 USD! There are of course other things as well like wells and toilets, or essentials but you can see how easy it would be to put together a bit of money to build a house.
Between myself personally and Marques Flooring I have already funded this full amount and more to build this home. I will also be actually helping with the physical build of the home while i am there and getting my hands dirty too, very dirty - no power, all hand tools!
With the small network they have set up it means we get the real cost on what it would be to do this type of thing with no admin at all, everyone is 100% volunteers! I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see how much more support i can get from both my friends and family and the contacts associated with Marques Flooring to see how much more i could give when i am over there. Hopefully i could be there for the building of two homes! You can even be there for this one or any future ones if you really wanted. Otherwise it could go towards many other things needed for this and many other families.
I am very excited about it already and will be documenting the whole thing as well to show everyone the whole experience and the end result. I think it is going to be a huge eye opener and have a good feeling we are going to make a huge impact!
Please share this around to everyone, including your boss! :)