Monday, May 2, 2011

Sze Ling does Cambodia!

Vice-President Public Relations, Hoo Sze Ling, ACB, who is ever the avid traveller (and also avid Toastmaster!), embarked on a solo trip to Cambodia in April, during what is reputed to be the hottest month of the year.

"This trip was going to be different from the ones I normally undertook. I had taken it upon myself to dabble in some charity work while in Siem Reap. Through the introduction of a friend, I came to meet Mavis Ching of Touch A Life, an international humanitarian organization which is permanently based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It serves healthy, meat-free lunches to 70 people 3 days a week and on Saturday, distributes food to up to 300 people located in villages all over Siem Reap.

I spent 3 days out of my trip assisting in the preparation and serving of food to the less privileged. These were children and adults who lived on very limited means, even with the jobs they held down, and were no strangers to hunger when the meager income they earned was insufficient to buy them a hot meal. What I found touching was the sincere gratitude and genuine smiles that greeted me in return for the little effort I had expanded in serving them lunch for the day. The experience of volunteering, albeit briefly, at Touch A Life enabled me to gain insight into the real side of Cambodia, where poverty and the absence of a social welfare system can mean misery and destitution, if not for organizations like Touch a Life and people like Mavis Ching.

Sze Ling posing with the founder of Touch A Life, Mavis Ching (third from left) and other volunteers serving up lunch

The children who came to have their lunch at Touch A Life. Oft times, this may be the only meal they have for the day.

The best part of the fun was riding a motorcycle with 2 other full-grown adults! It was definitely a first for me. And other helmets were required either! Yes, possible only in Cambodia! And the most awesome thing was it was nowhere near as hot as I had initially feared. It rained nearly everyday, keeping the weather nice and cool.

Of course I went on to see Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon, where I was struck with awe and wonderment at these monuments. I even continued my journey to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. This provided a sobering exploration of Cambodia’s most bloody time in history.

Angkor Wat and its reflection in a nearby lake

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the place used by the Khmer Rouge as a torture and detention centre. Some rooms depict photographs of deceased prisoners who have been tortured and brutalised. Before the reign of the regime, this place was once a school.

Cambodia was a most transformational learning experience indeed. I returned to Malaysia with a sense of renewed gratitude for family, friends and all that I have been blessed with, especially FOOD! What I learnt most profoundly is that sometimes when you have been blessed with much, this is when you need to go on to bless others. And of course, a return trip is in the cards!"

Thinking of dropping by Touch A Life to give a helping hand on your next trip to Siem Reap? Please drop me line at and I will pass you the contact details of Mavis Ching. Cheers!