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Cambodia 2020 with The Leap part 1 by Grace

Cambodia is a beautiful country. The people, the places, everything.

It may sound cheesy, but Cambodia is unlike anything many of us will have seen before and a place that you will never forget. For me, the most prominent difference between the UK and Siem Reap is the overriding sense of peace despite it being the fifth largest city in Cambodia. Everyone is calm, full of respect and happy, but most of all, grateful.

We have been split into two teams so that two water pumps and two toilets will be built during the morning project. Both villages are very remote and so the toilet is essential. We have been told the dangers and embarrassment that villagers, particularly girls, have to face on a daily basis just to go to the toilet - something that we see as a basic essential. In the countryside, the culture and attitudes are visibly more conservative and slightly more withdrawn than those within the centre of the city. Nevertheless, we are always greeted by smiling villagers and we have already been invited to the next village wedding. The first day they even offered each of us a coconut to drink as appreciation - it was delicious.

The simplicity of their lives is eye opening. Children have so much fun by just playing in the concrete rings or the sand that will eventually make up the basis of the toilet. Their homes are simply covered in corroding corrugated iron sheeting. They have no fans in 32 degree heat. But they are still smiling.

We had a similar experience at Kurata Primary School. Like the toilet project, the team is split into the same two groups. Kurata Primary School is the more basic sister school of The Spitler School Foundation. Not only are the children so enthusiastic and eager to learn, but they are so affectionate. Within the first hour, the children are coming for hugs, high fives and to hold your hand. By the third day, they wait outside the English classroom for us to come and play with them in their breaks. The playground and the classroom is always filled with laughter. We were told on the first day that to keep the children in the school system, every pupil in Grade 6 is given a bicycle so that they can make the long journey to the secondary school every morning.

The kindness and warmth shown by the Cambodian people is heartwarming and is one reason why this trip is so special.

Grace Castle

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