Our first 3 days on site

Drew & Lou & kids

3 days ago we arrived at Cambodia’s secret beach to assist Baby Tree Projects in building the Sophia Saly School and we wrote about our first impressions of the village and the project. I’m happy to say that every single element of this past 3 days has exceeded our wildest dreams by so much that I’m almost at a loss for words. Village life is a long way off the hustle and bustle of Melbourne, trams have been replaced by cows, ducks and chickens wandering freely, and the endless expanse of high rise apartments and office blocks have been replaced by giant coconut palms and blue sky.

The first few days of building have been a bit of a shock to the system for me, and not just in the physical sense. The work is hard, the sun is hot and power tools I’m used to using at home are a luxury we don’t have. It is primitive to say the least. If concrete needs to be poured, the volunteers form a 20 metre chain gang and pass buckets of it up the line to where it needs to go. When the floor needs to be levelled, there are two sticks with a 12 kilogram block on the bottom, which is used to pound the gravel and earth flat. And when the steel reo bars need to be bent into shape, it’s done with a crowbar and sledge hammer.

No matter how tired we are though, the second we take a break in the shade we are immediately surrounded by throngs of screaming, laughing kids jumping on us and trying to communicate as best they can. Within one minute I’m generally laughing and smiling so much that I forget the physical exhaustion and remember why we are here – because these kids want and deserve to learn. They want to go to school and gain an education so that they can lift themselves and their families out of the extreme poverty which is all they have ever known.

The tenacity of these children is what has struck me the most so far. Most of them have only one school uniform and many have no shoes. It’s quite common to see them helping the volunteers all day bending metal, painting and carrying buckets of rocks wearing only their pyjamas. So when we start to complain about the blisters on our feet, I look at the kids walking around site with no shoes and it sends me crashing back down to earth pretty quickly. Despite their individual hardships and circumstances though, you’d be hard pressed to find a single child here who doesn’t wear a constant smile on their face and express their gratitude to us at every chance they get. It truly validates that we are doing the right thing and that fills me with an enormous sense of pride.


Whilst we are only a few days into this journey, I already feel a great connection with the kids at the school and in our village. One of our volunteers said yesterday that “the kids seem to see into your soul with their eyes” and I have to say I agree. Each one of these children has a story which is both beautiful and heart breaking at the same time, and I can’t wait to hear every one of them, and hopefully make a difference to some of their lives.

If anyone wants to help by donating money, clothes or stationary/technology for the kids, please reach out via the Contact Us page of our website.


Drew & Louis

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