I first found Helping Hands Cambodia through Globalteer after searching the internet for an honest, quality NGO that I felt I could help contribute to for a few short weeks whilst in Cambodia. I am glad to say that I couldn’t have chosen a better place to spend my time than at Helping Hands. Placed in a rural village an hour ride by tuk tuk from Siem Reap this place is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’ve done a lot of work with children in Australia but nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had. The smiling faces who were so happy to greet me made me appreciate every minute I spent here and made it all the more difficult to leave.
After two weeks helping the teachers with English classes, cleaning the site, taking BMI’s (body mass index), assisting with first aid and even a few trips to the hospital I felt like I had a new family. Probably why I cried on my last day! I have never met people so appreciative, positive and enlightening in my life and this is even more mind blowing when you see that they literally have nothing, living almost entirely off their land and it’s produce.
After a few days I visited the village to see my students “houses” and was shocked by what I saw. Living in a square hut no bigger than my lounge room with the furniture consisting of only mats to sleep on and a mosquito net (some don’t even have one) I was trying to picturing my students doing their homework before the sun went down (given there is no power). These children are not forced by authorities to come to Helping Hands like we are in Australia; they do it because they love learning. This makes it all the more special.
It was emotionally life changing to see how people live in these rural parts of Cambodia. Coming from a background in the health profession and seeing so much disease and disability was confronting. There is no good health care system or health and hygiene knowledge. I was lucky enough to help take a few families to the Angkor Children Hospital where they provide free care and medication.
Medically speaking, spreading awareness is the only way to prevent cases from getting so severe. This is one of the steps Helping Hands is taking with their breakfast program as an alarming amount of problems are from malnutrition. Helping Hands has to be commended for providing transport, food and support to families in the village with their health care. An example of going above and beyond is sending tuk tuk drivers at 5am to pick up families from the village and bring them into town for check ups and operations. Lisa (Helping Hands manager) even spent her Saturday at the hospital to make sure one of the students was okay.
The compassion I witnessed was infectious and I am so glad I chose to donate to the organisation as a volunteer. If you are thinking of doing something to help I could not recommend Helping Hands enough. It is a once in a lifetime experience.
If you would like to volunteer please visit Helping Hand website. To keep supporting the work they do in this village you can donate via Paypal here.