In October 2017, My First Selfie embarked on another trip to Siem Reap to accomplish another mission of spreading love through photography. Thanks to the donations we have received from our amazing and generous contributors, Chapter 2 became a reality and was a huge success. This time round, our focus were mainly portraits of the elderlies and their families. We met some challenges to raise funds for for the first couple of months. We could not even reach our initial target. However, without giving up and with the help of friends, we managed to exceed our target and we could increase all the items we were giving out.
For those who are unfamiliar with the project, this is a self-initiative project by my wife Fann and I. The project’s main goal is to provide FREE portrait photos to the people from poverty-stricken villages. You can read about the background of the project and how the idea came about in the older post by clicking here.
This year, we went to Siem Reap for 5 days. Fann could not join us this round. Fortunately, my good friend Shuen tagged along to help me out. She works in Perth and flew all the way back here to lend me a hand. While we were there, the weather situation wasn’t very pleasant. It was the monsoon and most parts of Cambodia were flooded. For your information, up to 80% of Cambodia’s population live in rural areas, vulnerable to floods, droughts and other weather-related disasters. Some villages were rather difficult to get into. With the help of some villagers, they offered to bring us into some difficult locations through their self-made trucks. Some houses we went to had also collapsed due to the heavy rain. The families had to get shelter from their neighbours. It was a hard sight to take into.
300 Framed Portrait Photos and more
Chapter 2 was the biggest we have done so far. We managed to raise more funds from the public and do so much more. For those who do not know, villagers in rural Cambodia do not have the luxury of owning their own photos. This round, we wanted to focus the photos on the elderly community. This was because we thought that it meant very much to them. A portrait photo would be a memory to last forever when they pass on in their lives. Unfortunately, life span for rural Cambodians is very short. There weren’t a lot of elderly people to take photos of due to this and that meant we had to speed things up and keep the show going. We went to at least 4-5 villages and allocated our time to take 300 photos of the elderly and their families. What came as a bonus was that each framed photo that was given out, also included a set of soaps, toothbrush and toothpaste. This was to encourage them to take better care of their hygiene and teeth.
222 Water Filters
Believe it or not, there is lack of water supply in rural Cambodia. Studies show that 40 percent of rural Cambodians lack access to safe water sources and 50% of these households do not have toilets. Experts reported that water sources in rural Cambodia pose risk of diarrheal disease from inadequate public sanitation and human pathogenic bacteria. They took samples from wells, rain barrels, streams and other sources. Surface water sites all contained traces of microcystis, a harmful bacteria that generates toxins which causes liver damage in humans. Therefore, water purification became very important in our mission. We decided to buy as many water filters as we can to lend them a hand. With the extra money we raised, we managed to distribute up to 222 water filters in total. Each household received one filter which can then turn contaminated water into clean usable and drinkable water. The filters has a very simple ceramic mechanism but it helped to make a huge difference. These filters may be costly, but they can provide clean water for the villagers up to 2 years.
6 Water Pumps
Many villages in rural Siem Reap does not have proper water supply. Most of them would either use water collected from rainfall or take a bucket and walk miles to a lake or stream to collect and carry it home. Sometimes, the children needs to help out the family with this task and can be extremely tough. To make their lives easier, we decided to build water pumps (or water wells, as the Cambodians call it) near to their houses so that they can share with the nearby villagers. The pumps are made from very durable iron that can last for a very long time. They are extremely easy to use. Even the elderly and kids can easily pump up water with little effort. In total, we built up to 6 water pumps.
While we were shooting in one of the villages, a mother came up to us and told us something about his son. Apparently, she told us that her son has a disease and has been unable to walk. He has been in his house for years and is unable to move freely. She hoped that we could help her something that could assist his son to at least walk around the house freely. Our team then decided to buy a wheelchair to help him out. Fortunately, we had some more extra funds and this was exactly what we did. The next day, as we went back to distribute the photo frames, we visited the house again. We then presented the wheelchair to him. As he sat on the wheelchair, we taught him how to use the wheelchair. As we slowly pushed him out, his face lit up and was wearing this extremely big smile. He was so excited about leaving his house for the first time and he was laughing all the way.
Also, we also bought a bicycle for an old man. The old man and his family stayed in a very small wooden hut which was situated very far away from the main road. To help him get around easily with his harvest to and from the market, we thought a bicycle would assist him greatly.
We then also bought a wheelchair for a nun who stayed near the ancient Lo Lei temple. There is a school for village kids founded by a respective monk called Hun that is situated beside the Lo Lei Temple. The school has volunteers that teaches 270 children English, Khmer, history, computer studies, sewing and many more. He also provides free food and shelter for at least 27 orphans. Hun is a very good person and the world needs more people like him.
Last but not least, we went back to one of the villages that we did Chapter 1. One of the kids recognised me as we entered. He then ran into his house and showed me his photo that I took of him 2 years ago. I felt very happy and was so touched. I was so happy because I think he was trying to say Thank You by showing me his photo. What surprised me most was that he was still hugging the photo. That was a indication that tells me that we should not stop doing this project. As our motto goes “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in out hearts”
See Us in Action in My First Selfie: Chapter 2’s Video
A special shoutout to
- Fann Saw – My wife who supported me and kept me going
- Shuen Kuan – My good friend who came to my rescue and went to Siem Reap with me
- Kimleng Sang – My beloved Cambodian friend who was my translator, GPS and assistant
- Thor Thuch – My van driver and bodyguard
- Pastor Mang – The pastor who gave us access to some villages under his care
- Hun Rerngsey – The inspiring monk who founded Universal Friendship Association For Child Hope and has helped the unfortunate all his life
- Battle Bloom – The Malaysian band for allowing us to use their beautiful song in our video.
Check out their awesome music at Bandcamp
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