How Brian Got Involved
Brian has been a supporter of Helping Hands since the very beginning. He is a regular volunteer at the project and one of our monthly donors who's ongoing support makes a special impact at the project. He kindly shares his story about how he got involved.
Coming to Cambodia
"In 2004, I was working in travel in Southeast Asia and took a group to Siem Reap, Cambodia. A passenger in my tour group became quite emotional after visiting the local landmine museum. That passenger was Deb Groves, who – touched by the poverty she had seen just a short distance from the tourist mecca of Siem Reap – decided to return after her holiday and endeavour to “make a difference” for people less well off.
Having stayed in touch with Deb, I was able to return to Siem Reap myself and volunteer to support Deb’s initiatives. Her first major project was to build a bridge in 2006, which provided your-round access to the Angkor Temple and the city of Siem Reap for the people of Prasat Cha and other rural villages. This shortened travel time by up to 90 minutes and allowed residents to access more employment opportunities.
From here, a small non-government organisation, Helping Hands Cambodia, was born.
Helping Hands' Beginning
After the bridge was completed, I had the privilege to participate in a planning meeting in 2006, where the villagers identified the next thing they felt would provide substantial benefits for them. They wanted to open a village community school, to supplement services provided at the small government school. With encouragement, financial and logistical support from the fledgling Helping Hands organisation, the people of Prasat Cha built themselves the original school in 2007.
I retired at the end of 2005, putting me in the privileged position of being able to frequently visit Siem Reap and provide voluntary support in-country. I was able to utilise the accounting and management skills from my working life to support the project. In 2013 the management of HHC was handed over to Globalteer, in order to provide the structured management and the expertise needed to ensure the sustainability of the project into the future.
My hands-on involvement since then has been minimal. I have endeavoured to show up each year to give ongoing support to management, the school team and the students. To the extent that I am able, I like to provide financial support to the project in the form of a regular monthly donation. While not a large sum I believe the regularity provided enables some surety toward a small part of the cost of the school’s day to day operations.
What Helping Hands Cambodia Means to me
Being involved with Helping Hands Cambodia has had a profound effect on the later years of my life. After a privileged family and working life in Australia, it was not until my retirement that I visited other parts of the world where people are not so well off. And, in particular, it was the people of Cambodia who brought home to me what an easy life I had led.
The question is often asked, “why volunteer?”. I suspect people have various reasons, but in my case, it has been about trying to “give a bit back”. I had some management and accounting skills and experience that I was able to offer to a grass roots organisation trying to assist people endeavouring to improve their living standards.
But I have also gained immense pleasure from this involvement. The joy in seeing the lifestyle improvements the people of the village have affected over the past 15 years and their pride in their achievements. I have witnessed two generations of children passing through Helping Hands School and many of the first generation have gone on to tertiary studies and/or good jobs further afield. And in a personal respect, the many lasting friendships I have made with fellow supporters, HHC and Globalteer staff, villagers and ex students."
-Brian, Helping Hands Volunteer and Monthly Donor