I just got back from Cambodia on Monday morning and it is great to be back I must say. Cambodia is a place I never thought I would ever go to but I am so glad I went.
My husband and I participated in a charity cycle challenge for Project Futures so in other words we rode a bike around Cambodia, starting in Siem Reap and finishing in Sihanoukville which is on the south coast, over 10 days.
The last two days of our trip were 90km and then 105km; it was tough going. We were with a group of 16 riders and 5 support crew and tour leaders. It was the best experience of my life.
This trip came up in August last year and something within me told me I needed to do it so I signed up without really thinking that my husband and I would need to raise $14,000 for Project Futures (we still have $5,000 to raise).
I have been asked a couple of times what was the highlight of the trip, but we experienced and saw so much it is hard to say one specific thing.
Here are a couple of my highlights;
+ pushing out of my comfort zone;
+ meeting inspiring people both Cambodian people and the other Australian's on the tour with us;
+ meeting survivors of sex trafficking and seeing if they can be happy then so can I...every single day because what they have been through doesn't even compare to my 'bad days';
+ seeing poverty in some villages but the people still smiling;
+ the bike ride even though it was really tough;
+ sharing it with my amazing husband;
+ meeting Somaly Mam and the Voices For Change girls;
+ learning the history of Cambodia which is so horrific;
+ knowing that I am making a small difference in this big world of ours.
The photo you see above is a photo of me with an amazing woman called Somaly Mam, she is the founder of AFESIP Centres which rescue, rehabilitate and re-educate young women and girls that have been sold into sex trafficking. Somaly is a survivor herself who was sold at the age of twelve. I highly recommend her book, 'The Road of Lost Innocence' which is very confronting but also shows hope.
We were lucky enough to visit two of the AFESIP Centres, one which is where we met Somaly, is for girls under the age of 16 and the second centre is for girls over the age of 16. Needless to say this was a very moving, emotional and overwhelming experience where tears were shed. Some of the girls we met were as young as 3 years old, they were rescued from brothels or had been raped. It is astounding that people can do this to children, it is very heart breaking.
The bike riding part of this trip was difficult due to the length of the ride, the heat and of course the 'roads' we were riding on which were dirt, rocks, sand, many many pot holes and dust. My mind tried to give up on me a few times, especially when I would look up and see yet another hill; I must admit I did cry a couple of times as I tried to get up the many hills. It was a mental challenge more than physical that's for sure!
This trip has been an overhaul for my mind, body and spirit and I recommend that everyone has an experience like this some time in their lives. Going to a third world country where some people are so poor they cannot afford food but still manage to smile makes you feel so much gratitude; it opens your eyes to a world that is a lot harder than ours.
We all get stuck in a bubble of our own lives and forget what is happening in other places in the world where they are not so lucky and being reminded of this is really powerful.
Dean and I still have a lot more to raise for Project Futures so if you can help us out please donate at this website. We have now seen where the money goes and I don't think there is any better cause than this one. If you have any questions on my trip please leave a comment below.
Remember that no matter what you are going through there is always someone worse off than you; keep pushing through and always remember to smile!
Be happy & healthy,