After 11.5 months of volunteering in some of the poorest countries on earth where I spent my time in child rescue centres, HIV orphanages, homes for the disabled and in slum schools teaching English, across December and January I spent 4 weeks back in Sydney. The excitement of being back home was soon overcome by a feeling of being totally out of place, a feeling that I did not belong here anymore and that my time needs to be spent in developing countries helping the underprivileged through my charity. Regardless of this feeling I made the most of the summer weather, treating myself to a swim every day, spending quality time with my family, catching up with friends and of course meeting with as many high level contacts as I had to ensure maximum exposure and support for what The International Brothers & Sisters House was trying to achieve. I have always been a confident man but sharing my stories with men and women that I looked up to from a business point of view and seeing their reaction and their intended level of support filled me with such encouragement, a true and deep belief that everything is going to work out.
Saying goodbye to my family this time around was even more difficult to the last time I left back in January 2013. It was difficult for a couple of reasons, I had grown much closer to my family through my time away and this time around I didn’t really know when I was next coming home. I had a one way ticket to Cambodia and I knew that my life was now committed to my charity and being present in the developing countries we are supporting, to make sure I grow my understanding of each country and how I can help. When I left, my sister broke down in tears and it broke my heart to see it but I know she is a strong woman and she believes in me and what we are doing with the charity, so that makes it a little easier. A fellow philanthropist and friend sent this quote to me a few months ago. “You will never be completely at home again, because a part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place”. It’s so true but I count myself as one of the lucky ones, I feel like I am a father figure to dozens of orphan children all throughout Asia and Africa and wherever I go I am welcomed back with open arms and so much love. As a father figure and director of my charity I see it as my mission to love and care and nurture these children and provide them with every opportunity in life so they can realize their potential.
On January 14, 2014 I flew back to Cambodia. I was thrilled to be back mostly because the very next day Ashley was joining me. We had rented out an apartment in quite a nice area of southern Phnom Penh and spent our first couple of weeks reacquainting ourselves with each other and getting use to living with each other again. We had it all, each other, a beautiful place to live, Ashley got a job at a international school, I was working on building this website and finalizing everything for the launch of the charity and we were visiting a couple of orphanages each week – we thought we had a perfect mix of working and giving. But, it was short lived, the drive to and from Ashley’s school was across the city and Phnom Penh’s traffic is horrific, we were not getting to spend enough time at the orphanages as we were too busy and the lifestyle we were living was not what we pictured. So, after 2 months in Phnom Penh we decided to get out of there and move up to the Child Rescue Centre that I’d spent a couple of months volunteering in across 2013. The founder of the centre was in town and after several meetings we agreed that for accommodation and food and $200 a month that I would act as Director of the orphanage and “fix up” a few things and Ashley would remodel the English curriculum being taught up here. We have been here for a month now and love it – a perfect balance for us, a feeling that we are making a difference with plenty of spare time to move forward with the charity.
We have come to love the peace and solitude of living in this tiny village and have also grown to love that there is always kids around, it’s like we have been given an instant family of 30 kids. Phnom Penh is but a distant memory, one that we will look back on as a learning experience and never make that mistake again. No more big cities.
Over the last 3 months here we have travelled through Thailand and India and spent 10 days in Nepal where Ashley completely fell in love with the children at Namaste Children’s House and of course I felt blessed to be back and extremely happy. We will stay in Cambodia up here in the rescue centre until mid July and at that stage we will shift to Nepal to do similar work. We have some things we can really achieve here and we are both working hard towards our goals. One of my biggest projects at the moment and has been for the past 3 months has been working with numerous organisations, the Cambodian government and across 4 countries to get improved HIV medication into this country. My boy little Pet is resistant to all drugs on the 2nd line ART medication and he needs 3rd line treatment ASAP. He will be the first child in Cambodia to receive such medication and this opens the door for us to save many more children and perhaps even cure them.
This time has not been without its challenges with the charity, the process to get final approval for tax deductible status with the Australian tax office was riddled with hardships, we have had a few changes to our board and broken promises along the way but nothing that was ever going to break us, in fact all of these challenges strengthened our resolve to get it done and start on the path to truly having a positive impact on the children and countries we are supporting. I think the below quote sums it up well.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
I hope everyone is well and much love to all,