I always wonder what life will be like for our SOC children in the future. I wonder what they will do when they leave SOC. I wonder if they’ll go on to do good things, or if they’ll fall into the traps of poverty. I wonder if they’ll remember everything their wise Dad has taught them. I wonder if they’ll ever know the true extent to how loved they are and always will be. I wonder if they’ll live a life that they only dream of now, one that seems distant but not impossible. I wonder if loving them now is enough for them to learn to show love too. I don’t know what the future holds for them. I can only hope that everything we do for them now will shape their ideas, their dreams and then their realities. I hope that the small part that I’m playing in not just their lives but in this NGO will make a small enough difference in their futures and the futures of others. I hope that above all else, it was enough to know that there was someone who loved them immensely and cared so much. So much that I lost countless hours of sleep, shed more tears than I ever imagined possible and did everything I knew how to do to help in any way I could. I have never cried for anyone the way I have cried for them. In fact, I only ever cry when it’s something to do with Cambodia and these kids. The tears when I have to leave are the hardest and realest any tears can get. If nothing else, I hope that in the future they can feel the same love for someone else that I have for them.
Anything I can do for them now, I hope it’s enough for to make a small difference. My intention isn’t to be someone that is never forgotten, to be someone that worked in these children’s home and school. My intention isn’t to be someone who wants to force and enforce Western ideals. My intentions are to do what I can, with any resources that I do or don’t have, and do something for the good of someone else. I don’t want to be a hero and I don’t want people to tell me that I’m a “good person”. How do you even define a good person? I just want to do what I do and do it wholeheartedly. I don’t do things by halves. I either do it or I don’t. None of that half-assed shit. I don’t want to be the President of the United States, I just want to give back. I want to bring a sense of happiness, love, hope that wasn’t there before. If I can leave this life knowing I’ve brought something meaningful to someone, then I will have accomplished all I want to do. If I can go a step further and teach young girls and boys the importance of doing what you’re meant to do, then I will have won. If I can help, and truly help, truly make a life-long difference, I will have won.
I may not know a lot, I only graduated high school in November of 2012. I’m only 19. I’m just a 19 year old from Melbourne. But I know better than to degrade someone or look down on someone because of their age. I know better than to foolishly think that someone younger than you may know more than you about something, that they don’t have good ideas, or relevant input. I know better than to think that someone younger than you isn’t capable of doing something successfully. But most of all, I know better than to let anyone tell me I can’t do something because I’m young. I know better than to do that. Age will only be what you make of it. Sure there are times when you need to draw the line. You can’t have a 5 year old telling you they’re capable of doing shots at their birthday. But for the most part, age will only limit you if you let it.
I might only be 19, but if there’s something I know a bit about, it’s these kids, this culture and the people that make this country everything it is. Millions of people know about this country and know it’s history and it’s culture far, far better than I do. But there aren’t so many that can say they know the kids the way we do. Not so many know what makes them tic, what makes them smile, laugh, cry, where they came from, why they’re here. That is something I do know a lot about. I also know that other than my own family and close friends, I have never felt so much like it was my duty to love and protect these people the way I want to. I don’t want to be someone important to these children, just someone who does everything possible to make a difference. It happens to be a blessing that I feel loved back from them, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still do what I could to make even the smallest change, bring just some happiness.
I try not to think about the future, but their futures play on my mind sometimes. I want to know that what we do now will be enough later on. I don’t want to look back in a week, a month, a year or even a decade and feel like I could have done more, or made some different choices within the NGO, that I could have reached out to more people, done something more. I don’t want to think that I have failed any of them. That’s why it breaks my heart when I walk through the streets and I’m approached by beggars. Because I know that if I don’t give them food, maybe they won’t eat that day. For such selfish reasons, I don’t want to have that on my mind when I go to bed at night. I don’t like seeing those wise, black, soulful eyes looking at me when I close my own eyes to try to go to sleep. I don’t want to see the face of the young girl with the baby on her hip who told me she doesn’t want money, she just wants to go to school. It’s selfish, but I don’t want that on my conscience. I want to go to bed and know that I did what I could with the little I have. When my Mum was here she said to me “You can’t feed everyone Alexandra”. This angered me. Maybe because I knew there was truth to it. I can’t feed everyone. But I can feed some. I don’t need the food in the same way they do.
There’s always so much laughter and smiling. This was taken in January 2012 and remains one of my favourite photos of all time. You can almost feel the happiness and joy, the love.
Today I had some breathing time. I spent most of the day in my room, only leaving for breakfast, lunch and then dinner. That’s usually how I spend my days off. In my room, on my laptop. E-mailing, working, researching… The day gets away from you. Before you know it there’s the next knock on the door telling you the next meal is ready and it’s been 7 hours since you last emerged. The days go so quickly. Time is getting away. If I could slow it right down my god I would. I’d do anything to slow everything down so that there was more time to take in this life. Take in the surroundings, the teachings, learning. I don’t want to open my eyes one day and realise that it’s all been and gone, that this was just a dream and all I have is memories. I feel like if I’m not careful, this could all just be over at any point. I have to take in every second and make it count.
People always say life is short. I’m guilty of saying it too. But I don’t know if I believe that anymore. Life isn’t short. It’s long. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it even lasts for a century. Sure life can definitely be cut short, sometimes peoples time is over before it should have been. But there we go again, assuming that because it happens to a small group of people that it happens to everyone. Choosing to look at the minority of negatives instead of the many positives. There are so many things we can change in this world. None of it possible until we change ourselves. Coming here I’m learning a lot about myself. Despite the unconditional gratitude, happiness and love that I feel, I see just how much of myself there is to change. So many times in the past few years of being my parents and brother’s main nightmare, being a friend that is sometimes too harsh, cold and emotionless. I don’t know if that will ever change, that’s who I am…
I hope that love is enough. For my family, for my friends. I hope that despite any things I say or do, any way I act, that it’s enough that they know I love them all the same. I hope that showing love is enough for the kids and people here. Only time will tell. I’ve watched since 2009 as this place as grown. I’ve grown too, in more ways than one. For me, in my life so far, being loved by these people here and by my family and friends… yeah, it’s been enough.
Peace & Love,
May this be a permanent reminder in the Savong School of the time I have spent growing, learning and loving. I remember writing in the cold, wet new cement. I so clearly remember thinking “this is so permanent. This will be here forever, I can’t believe I’m allowed to do this… anyone could be writing their names here and it’s us…”