From Jake Saturday Night 1 August 2015
Pretty hard to believe it has only been 26 hours since I checked into my hotel. Have been non-stop since, but as I’m sure you all expected loving every minute. Today (Saturday) has been incredibly busy too, almost so much so that I’ve struggled to take everything in. I feel like social media has really worked a treat for establishing what I do here in Siem Reap. As soon as I walked into Sister Srey café this morning I was welcomed with a big hug from Lauren the owner, followed by saying how sad she was when the school collapsed. We then chatted about the incredible work she is doing through her own charity Hearts of Harmony which is helping young women in particular with lessons on female hygiene and minimizing time spent away from school through providing sanitary products etc. Not exactly a light hearted pre-breaky conversation, but incredible to firstly see the need amongst these young women and secondly how incredible she is using her unique ability to connect with young women to help overcome these things.
Pheakdey and I then headed to SilkScreen printing lab who does our t-shirts for us. The young manager Chandy was working very hard on our bike-ride design and after many photoshop alterations and printing samples we were finally on track. The Khmer staff were doing such a professional job and so awesome to see people from such disadvantaged backgrounds doing such incredible things.
We then headed off to our meeting with our new landlords and to see our new learning centre. Awesome place, lovely small house which will become the hub of 1step1life here in SR a place where hopefully many amazing things will happen. After sealing all that, I headed off to catch up with Tony from Blend, who is very generously sponsoring the ride in a few different ways and has also offered us a 2 x 2m space on his wall purely for advertising 1step and promoting Cham’s artworks. My and Pheakdey’s minds are spinning with ideas. After a not so quick catch up, Pheakdey grabbed me again to head out to Son’s.
The school is one of the pinnacles of what 1step1life has achieved, it has been a long road and a long road ahead. But seeing even a half complete classroom in a building we all built, on land we all brought is something incredibly special. It may not be super snazzy yet, but it is a huge step in the right direction. Numbers of students has grown so much that Son is having to put students on a waiting list until we sort out other teachers to help. The community is realizing how much effort Son has put in and as they say “if you build, it they will come”. I am incredibly proud that we are providing the only free, non-discrimatory, non-religious school in riding distance for these kids. I think the school is the start of something special, the start of another long but well worth road ahead.
After a long dinner de-brief with Pheakdey with idea’s spinning, we officially welcomed Pheakdey full-time to the 1step1life team. His contract has been signed and he is officially our full-time Cambodia coordinator, a role he certainly deserves.
To cap off the night I went for a long night walk. As I weaved through the buzzing, tourist filled streets surrounding Pub Street, with a full mind of everything from today, I saw someone staring at me out of the corner of my eye, then a huge smile and “JAKE!”. It was Sophol one of our scholarship students. That kid (can say kid he is a few months younger than me haha) makes me so incredibly proud. He is working front of house at a restaurant now instead of the kitchen as he asked his manager if he could to practice his English. He is going to achieve huge things in the future and that’s not because of me, but because everyone who reads this email made the effort of doing something about helping the deserving people of this country. We gave this young man a fishing rod, instead of a fish and he is proving everyday what is possible when that is done.
And only another few days and Scott, Hayden and Pheakdey are about to embark on their 800 km ride to support my work and 1step1life is an incredible gift. Though I am left with no doubt this country and its people will make every hour of the ride worthwhile.