POSTED IN Salons ON 01 October, 2018
01 Oct Making Waves in Cambodia – On Reflection
IN CAMBODIA, ON REFLECTION
During September 2017, Paul Corbett from Francesco Group Streetly spent time in Cambodia teaching hairdressing, as part of Wella’s Making Waves Project with Unicef.
Paul wrote a touching essay on his experience below:
PAUL CORBETT – FRANCESCO GROUP STREETLY
We are now nearing the end of what has been an incredibly wonderful, tough, funny, brutal and hard work experience. Sunday was a relaxing day for everyone, especially the kids we are teaching, who must be mentally and physically exhausted from everything we are teaching them (imagine trying to learn in two weeks what we take three years to learn!). I know that might sound crazy but there is such an urgency required to getting these kids skilled. It is a wonderful experience to be teaching kids who are so grateful for every small thing that you do; I could cry at least five times every day.
They screamed and cried with happiness when we bought them a Burger King! They screamed and cried when we told them they could keep the hairbrushes, scissors and combs. I’ve never seen such gratitude over small gestures. We gave up our Saturday to be with them and played games, painted a mural and styled their hair for them. It was one of the best days of my life.
We are seeing some really tough things here too. At midnight one night I saw a woman on the streets collecting cans in one hand to sell for recycling and carrying a filthy sleeping child in the other. On our field trip day, we were taken to the most horrific slums and squats; the worst being a rubbish tip where I saw four young toddlers and a baby playing amongst the flea ridden rubbish while their parents were extremely strung out on heavy drugs. This was where they lived. Amongst this were charity workers trying their best daily to both educate about clean drug use and working with families to help them learn a trade, start a business or send their children to a school or charitable academy.
It is a really strange feeling to have both fallen in love with this place and be repulsed by it. One thing I do know is I hope that we can all find a way to continue to contribute after this experience.
The team I am working with is the most together and caring group of individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Their compassion for the kids is also matched by their compassion for each other. Nobody gets left behind and everybody raises each other’s spirits every time it is needed (which can be quite often).
We are having fun in the evenings, but the working days are long, hard and hot and do not stop when we return to the hotel as we then plan and prepare our next day. Having a day off Sunday was probably the most needed day off I’ve ever had, but it’s also made me miss home even more.
To everyone who has liked and shared my posts on social media, thank you so, so much! But let me make it very clear it is not a thank you for mine or Wella’s sake. There is a very real and urgent need to spread the word about the work that UNICEF and Friends International are doing here. If you care greatly about kids, please, please, please educate yourself about Friends International and what you can do to help. They are the most incredible people and along with 3PC (a local charity working with the families), they are trying so hard on a daily basis to get families out of extreme poverty and into work and housing.
The most important lesson we have learned is NEVER volunteer to work in orphanages. Most children in them have parents who are still alive and have been convinced or tricked in terrible ways to have their kids taken away. UNICEF and Friends International are doing all they can to empower the families of these children to take control of their futures so that children are cared for in the right way.
We all came out here to change some lives, I don’t think any of us realised that it would change ours quite so much too. I hope that I come out of this experience a better person for doing it.
Paul has had a year to reflect on his experience with Making Waves; we asked him about the lasting effect the trip has had on him since:
It has been a year since we were in Cambodia, and there is not a day goes by without me thinking about our experience out there. The kids that we taught have all progressed as we have heard how most have found employment or even started their own business, while the rest are continuing their studies. I’ve had the pleasure of giving talks on my adventure and raising over £1000 for the charity, and I will continue to do my best to raise awareness about this wonderful project. We have all made friends for life and earlier this year the team all met up in Sweden for the wedding of one of our fabulous educators, Ravin. We plan on meeting up again in each other’s countries and will all carry this memory in our hearts forever.
It is wonderful to think of the lasting impact Paul and the other members of the team have had on these individuals, his #FGFamily are very proud of him and his continued commitment to this cause.
If you would like to support the work of Friend’s International, please donate by clicking the logo below.