There are just some places you go to, and people you meet that you never quite recover from. They leave an indelible mark on your soul. They change you immeasurably. And you marvel at how people you spend such a short time with can nudge the needle on your inner compass to a truer North.
In 2009, I made my first trip to Siem Reap to volunteer in an orphanage run by a lovely Australian couple called Wat Preah Yesu. I’m more partial to secular aid, but am very cognisant of the fact that sometimes, it doesn’t matter why people do good things, as long as it makes the world a better place. As someone who sees aid and charity work as a core goal in life, I struggle with vetting potential organisations, rampant corruption, deciding what form of aid is best, and constantly evaluating if the projects are really helping these people in the big scheme of things. I’m still chipping away at all of this, and learning as I go. But at the end of the day, you learn to question only to a certain point. Because once you allow paranoia to set in, you will lose heart. And without it, we are but animals.
I want to share the story of two children who have changed my life. Everyone, meet Sert and Neng.