Hosted by the fabulous Sala Baï team of Claude, Mayelle and Caroline, a group of 9 adults and 4 children made their way to Siem Reap from as close as Singapore to as far afield as Florida.
The long weekend allowed us to make the most of the trip to witness firsthand how Sala Baï alleviates poverty by transforming the lived of young adults, learn how we can make a difference to those in need, and of course experience the magnificent Angkor Archaeological Park, an
UNESCO world heritage site.
After arriving (some of us dusty and tired) on Thursday and checking in at either the Sala Baï or at the Heritage Suites Hotel, we met up with old and new friends over drinks and jazz in the lovely Heritage Suites Hotel, followed by dinner.
On Friday we started the day early to experience the very special flag raising ceremony at Sala Baï, meet some of the students and learn more of the school, before hopping in a tuk tuk to walk the site of the very exciting new school development, just a short distance away. With spacious grounds, specially designed training facilities, student housing and great accommodation for guests, everyone was already planning their return visits, for the opening later this year.
The Alumni dinner later that evening was an absolute highlight! A fun, happy and joyful dinner with much laughter and dancing, the annual celebration brought together current and past students, many of whom pledged ongoing support to the school.
The following day, with sore feet from dancing, we explored the magnificent Angkor temples, while some hopped on the back of a vespa scooter to experience aspects of the extraordinary everyday life in the Cambodian countryside. An evening watching the outstanding performers of the Phare Cambodian Circus awed and thrilled everyone and was a fitting end to the trip.
The weekend to discover certainly thrilled the kids and the well-travelled, inspiring a passion for Sala Baï and its amazing and brave students and leaders and building unique friendships – all of which have already gone on long after takeoff
I am from Samdan village, Peaksnang Commune, Angkor Thom district, Siem Reap Province, actually at 2 hours and a half bicycle from Siem Reap!
My father left us when I was still a baby. My mother went to stay with her parents. My grand-mother died when I was 3 and my mother re-married when I was ten. She left me to live alone with my grand-father who is now 77, poor and sick.
Then I attended Angkor Thom High School run by the NGO Hope and Life. We were more than 200 students to be supported with schooling, breakfast and lunch every day for 7th till 9th grade. I finished 9th grade.
To bring a little money home, I would miss school and work as a day-worker to grow potatoes and dig them up and plant or harvest rice. I would make 9000 riels a day. Quite a nice amount because we worked as a team for the potatoes. The more we would dig up, the more we would be paid.
It is not always easy to live with my grand-father but he is nice. I see my mother sometimes, I have three half sisters that I see sometimes as well but they all live in another village.
My life is so different here at Sala Baï. No one has ever paid attention to me at home. Here I have many friends and all the teachers look after me.