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Camp Cambodia

27 September 2017

When I told people I was spending part of my summer at Camp Cambodia, I was met with looks of confusion and curiosity - "I'll be teaching children English and playing with elephants for 3 weeks" I'd say, shrugging it off. How wrong I was, it was all that and so much more. Sit tight kids, we're going back to the start.

At no point in the 7 months prior to the trip had I questioned the fact that I was going to spend 3 weeks on the other side of the world with a bunch of complete strangers, but you best believe that after 24 hours of solid travel when I hopped off the plane at Phnom Penh to be met by some quite frankly terrifying border officials, completely alone, all I could think was 'what have I done?' Fast forward 3 weeks to the return journey home, where I was knocked back from airport security for crying just that little bit too hysterically and I guess you could say that Camp Cambodia had been nothing short of one of the best experiences of my life.

It's impossible to try and convey everything that I saw/felt/experienced during my time in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and to those unfortunate enough to have been in my company since I've returned, one question is enough to spur at least 3 hours worth of Cambodian related chat. I'm not even sure where to begin and to be honest, my words could never be eloquent enough to describe just how incredible the experience was. Conveniently, I made a little video of my time there, which you can watch below.

From teaching underprivileged children English to volunteering in the slums in an effort to break the cycle of poverty that is so present in Cambodia, the experience changed my outlook on life and was moving in all senses of the word. Surrounded by such bright and positive children on a daily basis proved that even in the darkest of times, light can always be found. But it wasn't only the children who were a source of daily inspiration.

The strangers who I met at the airport that very first day, the people I lived with, ate with and shared beds with, have firmly rooted themselves in my heart. The progression from strangers, to friends, to family, all within such a short space of time would have seemed inconceivable to me before this trip but I can honestly say that I would have been nothing without them all.

To my Cambodian family, I don't know where to begin. Thank you for being warm, friendly faces that first day at the airport and for making breakfast plans with me that first night out (food is always the priority). Thank you for the endless laughs, the laughter that made me cry and for turning my tears back into laughter again. Thank you for the never ending supermarket runs with me and daily brunches at Brown's. Thank you for the nights that turned into mornings and for being the best karaoke partners I could have possibly asked for. Thank you for the late nights stunting in the pool and the 3am chats about life, where I figured out more than I thought possible. Thank you for sharing beds with me, letting me dance around the room endlessly and looking after me when I was sick. Thank you for the tuk-tuk races, the monkey chases and that time I went rogue on the quad bike. Thank you for accepting my sometimes questionable shapes on Pub Street and then joining me anyway and for not letting me try and navigate my way home alone at 2am. Thank you for the bus tunes (DJ JC) and for the adventures out in the torrential rain. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for being an inspiration to me daily, each in your own way, even now that we're back home and for honestly making me believe in myself. I couldn't have asked for a better group of friends to take on Cambodia with - sorry, but you're stuck with me now.

Camp Cambodia, thank you for everything.

Sabai, sabai


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