In just one decade, Southeast Asia has seen a massive increase in tourism. Leaving behind a small slice of our holiday spend to benefit local communities is not a bad thing to try to do.
Cambodia is a country you can visit and leave behind a worthwhile contribution to the welfare of people who live there.
Capital Phnom Penh is a mind blowing mix of utter poverty, gleaming new expensive 4×4’s, sanctuary for paedophiles to carry out their disgusting abuse, overloaded scooters doing battle with tuck tucks and while I was there even Monks being arrested for drug offences.
Hidden away at the edge of the Military Hospital is the Happy Tree orphanage caring for HIV positive children. It survives on charitable donations and an international charity Pack For A Purpose is part of that support. We can all get involved and I can promise your donations really make a difference.
I arranged to visit Happy Tree and with my wife Janet transported books, pencils, world maps and others slices of school life paraphernalia to this most uplifting example of care and love. Medicine is expensive but this small unit has saved the lives of hundreds of sick children. Happy Tree on the week of our visit was proud to announce their first ever University graduate. She will become a pharmacist. The orphanage school was just wonderful and no money in the world could have bought the smiles I saw.
Pack For A Purpose is involved in charitable projects worldwide and the idea is that we use space in our suitcase for items like school teaching essentials. For more information. firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.packforapurpose.org/destinations/
Cambodia has a recent dark past and you will need a strong stomach to visit the killing fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh or the school building called S-21 used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and kills thousands. The middle classes seen as a threat to the Regime were shown no mercy. Wearing glasses could mean death. During Khmer Rouge rule from 1975 to 1979 it is estimated 1.7 million people were killed. In modern times only 3% of the population is aged between 60 and 70 – a lost generation.
At the centre of those dark days was a hotel now called Raffles Le Royal. Scottish medical staff used the building to provide the final source of treatment before the Khmer Rouge and its soldiers started to clear the City.
After the hustle and bustle of visiting maybe, the organised chaos of market life this is a true sanctuary. Fantastic colonial style building with a huge splash of Art Deco thrown in. It has been graced by the good and the great of years gone by. Somerset Maugham, Charlie Chaplin, and Jacqueline Kennedy among them. The hotels Femme Fatale cocktail is name after her.
The hotel supports the Pack For A Purpose charity and members of the British staff teach English at the Happy Tree orphanage. If your suitcase was too full, they will help you choose and buy school equipment locally.
Unreported World on Channel 4 gave us all a real sense of those terrible Khmer Rouge times last week. (Find the programme on catch up. First, broadcast April 24th). Reporter, the excellent Krishnan Guru-Murthy, says it is the most moving assignment he has ever worked on. Says something for an experienced journalist like Krishnan.
It featured It’s Not a Dream a top rated reality TV show made in Phnom Penh. The programme mission is to reunite families separated by the Khmer Rouge. Not only did they get together sisters who had not seen each other for 40 years but had found their mother too. A must watch show which perhaps helps explain the resilience of the people of Cambodia
I loved its capital city and Happy Tree. I think you will too.