Cambodian Summer with Rippleffect
Cambodia has such a wild history, notably with the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s, and unfortunately the US had a hand in the exchange of power during that time. In it's recent shadowed history, the leaders of the country began to systematically kill the educated and those who stood against the nation's ideals. In the end, an estimated 3 million people died, about 35% of the country's population at the time. It is important to be informed of the history of any place you visit and sensitive to the mindset of the people. Contrast that with the rich past of buddhist worship and magnificent temples, it makes for a complex and beautiful culture.
As the world becomes more accessible, we to be sensitive to the environment, the people of the land, and the way we express our own ideology to others. For someone unfamiliar and new to Cambodia, I was honored to be led by a woman who has gone before and left a huge portion of her heart amongst its nationals.
My friend Ansa and her business partner, Lauren, have started a travel company with the mission of responsible social good. They named it Rippleffect - the idea being the good that you perform ripples out to those around you and becomes a catalyst for change . Ansa spent four months of her life in Cambodia in a center for special needs children. Going back with her was like watching a homecoming. The excitement and recognition on their faces was so bright. Love is contagious.
The purpose of the trip was to help the caregivers and children in the center take an overnight trip to the beach followed by a holy mountain. The trip was unique because travel like this would be impossible with solely the staff at the center. They physically needed extra arms and eyes to care for and work with the kids on the road. And let me tell you, what an experience. Only Ansa knew Khmer, the Cambodian language, but a lot of communication is transferred through a smile, loving arms, and service. Learning words for "how pretty" and "how are you" lights up faces. Feeding and carrying kids who cannot do that for themselves will change your perspective faster than you think. The center was so appreciative, asking us back at anytime. Our hearts and their hearts were in the right places before, during, and after this trip. Such a gift.
After leaving the center we travelled to the northern part of the country in Siem Reap to explore temples. The city itself has boomed and gentrified some due to tourism, expectantly so, due to the impressive nature of its regional temples and palaces, past and present. The group had bonded through hard work and became a family by this point. Processing all that we'd seen lead to vulnerability and true friendship - one of the desired outcomes of all trips I get to be a part of.
An ongoing relationship with Cambodia and the center for special needs has been established. Look for more next year as we continue to be a part of Cambodian life in tangible ways.