Understanding Elephants

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I have never had the opportunity to study a wild animal in its natural habitat in any depth. I once experienced a week on safari in Kenya, where interaction was limited to observing from a jeep. I also spent a week on an Arctic expedition, where I was fortunate enough to see polar bears, though naturally through long lense binoculars.

Travelling around SE Asia it is impossible not to come into contact with the world’s largest land mammal – the elephant. However, the way you choose to interact with them varies considerably.

In all ASEAN countries there are countless opportunities to ride an elephant, wash them, watch them perform tricks at the circus, buy paintings they make using their trunks and see them dressed up for festival parades and in Myanmar you can visit a logging station where elephants are made to drag huge teak wood logs from way up in the mountains all day long.

None of these options appealed to me because they all force elephants into unnatural activities, where they are made to suffer and frequently suffer horrific injuries. What I wanted was to gain a better understanding of an elephant’s character and behaviours in as natural an environment as possible.

During my research I came across Elephant Nature Park (elephantnaturepark.org) in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. Founded in 2003 by the diminutive powerhouse that is Lek Chailert, ENP is home to some 70 elephants all of whom she has rescued from sustained abuse and the resulting physical, mental and emotional injuries. There are opportunities to volunteer at ENP for anything from a couple of days to several weeks and, from the reviews I read, the experience looked great.

But that still wasn’t exactly what I wanted because the elephants were contained, albeit in a huge park. Then I read about Lek’s other programme “Journey to Freedom”. For centuries the Karen tribe has cared for elephants in the jungle. Through unemployment, they were forced to lease their elephants to trekking camps and elephant tourist shows. Now four elephants had been returned to their natural habitat in Non Ngae Pu village, just outside Doi Inthanon National Park.

Journey to Freedom offers a small group of volunteers daily interaction with these elephants, whilst the volunteers also embed themselves in this small hill tribe community through helping teach English to the village children and helping with local agricultural projects.

I tell you – the information on the website sells itself way, way short.

The week that I and five fellow volunteers spent living at one with nature, taking cold showers in a tin hut flanked by water buffalo, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a simple bamboo hut (nicknamed Hotel California), eating meals round a blazing log fire, gazing at the night sky filled with brilliant stars, was magical.

We were awoken at 5:30 every morning by a cacophony of cockerels, swiftly followed by the meowing of four 3-week old kittens. After the suffocating heat and pollution of Chiang Mai city, the cool of the early morning air was refreshing and there’s nothing like banana pancakes and locally grown pineapple, watermelon and strawberries to start the day.

Our guide for the week was Yo – man passionate about saving elephants and forceful in his low opinion of businessmen who a) are only interested in making money out of elephants and don’t care for their wellbeing and b) don’t respect nature, destroying the forest at a rate that is damaging the whole eco-system. His assistant Jo was quieter on the subject but coming from the Karen community clearly loved nature and was also an excellent vegetarian cook. Our young intern Arnon was desperate to learn English and would therefore sit next to me and repeat everything I said as well as say random words that he looked up on Google translate – perfect for eye spy! They were an incongruous team who between them looked after us superbly.

Our first encounter with the four elephants who were to be our companions for the week, was directly after we arrived at our camp. We trekked through the jungle for a little while and then came the sound of branches breaking before the moment I will never forget; a huge grey trunk thrashing in the thick vegetation. As my eyes began to focus, I saw two big elephants and two smaller one coming towards me. My heart began to beat faster and I was pretty nervous about how I was going to ‘introduce’ myself to these massive beasts. I mean to say you can’t just go up to them and give them a pat!

I had been give a big bunch of bananas and told to slowly approach each elephant saying their name and proffering a banana. All well and good except when they simultaneously decided to converge on me and I was surrounded by trunks probing for the bananas, legs and feet the size of tree trunks centimetres from my tiny feet, bodies towering over me and doleful yes staring into mine.

Whilst I said each name and tried to put the bananas one by one in each trunk it ended up in a bit of a free for all and in a frenetic couple of minutes all my bananas had disappeared into their enormous mouths. I can only imagine what the elephant mahouts (carers) were thinking. They must have been laughing whilst at the same time being ready to deal with any potential threat to our safety.

My respect for the mahouts grew each day. They dedicate their lives to looking after their elephant (one mahout per animal) and know them like they would know their child. Each elephants has their distinct personality, which has been affected by the life they will have been exposed to.

Our four friends were: Mae Yui, a 30 year old female who, as a result of ten years working for a trekking company for long hours on a poor diet had sustained serious injuries including problems with her knees and joints. Mae Yui had produced two calves, one boy who was sold and can’t be traced and one girl who ENP had managed to find and reunite with Mae Yui.

This was 5 year old Mebai who had been subjected to the cruelest treatment to forget her mother and then trained to perform tricks in the circus before Lek paid to have her set free. Now reunited with her mother and the bond having slowly re-formed, they rarely leave each other’s side which is a beautiful thing to see.

Next there was 32 year old Boon Sri who had lost one calf and was now 8 months (of a total of between 18-22 months) pregnant. She had been used to carry tourists on her back all day long in the searing heat, and as a result of a badly fitting carriage and overweight passengers, she had developed a massive lump behind her neck which eventually made it impossible for her to continue working. No longer of use to her owner she was rescued by ENP and is now living happily as nanny to Mebai (every calf has a nanny who is their protector) and friend to Mae Yui, who in turn will be nanny to Boob Sri’s calf.

The last elephant was 6 year old bull Erawan. His life had been spent producing paintings, which involves his owner sticking a nail into the flesh behind the ears to force the trunk (with paint on the end) to go left, right, up, down to make the patterns. The result is huge cysts behind the ears and severe mental problems.

Having met the elephants we walked with them for a while, as they roamed free, eating copious amounts of vegetation. On average an elephant in the wild eats 250kg and drinks 200 litres a day, and poos and pees every hour. In captivity they have a nutrient and fibre poor diet and often only relieve themselves once a day. It was a humbling experience, seeing these gentle giants wander freely, with the occasional warning from their mahout if they (usually the little ones) misbehaved.

So each day we trekked to find the herd and spent time walking with them, then periods sitting in the undergrowth watching them interacting. Interestingly with all that freedom and space, they prefer to be close to each other because they are sociable, tactile and protective, which is why it’s so cruel to separate them. I observed that when they sense danger or hear a strange noise their ears become rigid and they make a low growing noise and trumpeting in the early morning is similar to us stretching.

When not interacting with our new friends, we were kept busy. We spent a morning machetteing (sp?) one tonne i.e.two truck loads of ‘may tau la’ (tall thick vegetation) to feed to the elephants. When they arrived at the camp that afternoon, they were so hot and tired that they made a beeline for the pond and wallowed happily in the mud for ages before chomping their way through the fruits of our labour. By now I was feeling much more confident around these gentle giants, touching them, feeding them and sitting close by them. I never imagined they would be such fun to get to know.

Another day in the forest we watched the adult females pull down enormous banana trees and then delicately feel with their trunks before ripping up the roots. Having then all but stripped the fallen tree bare they would move on, at which point Erawan would appear to enjoy the leftovers without having to do any of the hard work! He was definitely my favourite and his mahout called me ‘sister’.

The hardest task we were given was to shift about 150 heavy bags of rich soil (slung across our backs) down a narrow forest path and then to fill small pots with the soil in preparation for the planting of 200,000 Arabica coffee plants to be distributed amongst the local people to cultivate and eventually sell. A great example of helping the local community’s self-sustainability. We could equally have been helping the farm women pick strawberries which grow in abundance in the area.

Every day around 4:30pm we would drive to a local Karen or Hmong village school to help the children speak English. I had fun with the younger children playing counting and alphabet games, singing and drawing and even teaching them the hokey kokey, whilst teaching the older children to put together simple sentences. The children were super-keen and joined in everything which made it very rewarding. We also bought lots of educational materials for a kindergarten and, having helped serve lunch to the impeccably behaved children, presented our gifts to the lovely headteacher, who was overcome with gratitude. Such a simple, easy thing for us to do.

All too soon it was time to leave the camp. After five life-changing days we attended a ceremony to be blessed by the 97 year old village elder and to receive a friendship necklace, a longevity bracelet and health and happiness sweets from him. Again we were given bunches of banana to say our goodbyes to the elephants and this time I confidently pushed each one away to ensure I fed each of them….and then Erawan ate my happiness naughty boy! Found farewells all round, we climbed onto the back of the truck to make our bumpy way back to civilisation.

We spent our final 24 hours at the ENP. After the solitude of the forest it was a shock to be surrounded by hoards of people on one-day visits but interesting to talk to some of the volunteers who had been at the Park all week. Yo also introduced us to several of the herds and told us their personal stories. These included elephants maimed from stepping on landmines; blinded by Bangkok’s neon lights as they were used to beg or perform tricks on the street; a dislocated hip as a result of being hit by a lorry; smashed legs from logging; broken ankles from chains, severed nipples, and so the list goes on.

What is so uplifting is that each of these elephants is now each is leading a peaceful life cared for by an army of volunteers, their designated mahout and the indefatigable Lek who will be told about an elephant that either needs rescuing or who’s owner no longer wants them, will negotiate a price to have them released from service and then slowly integrate them into the safety of the Park. As you can imagine this is very expensive and like all charities, money is always tight. The organisation is now working cross-border in Myanmar and Cambodia and slowly but surely trekking establishments and businesses are learning how to better care for their elephants. In addition, ENP is him to hundreds of abused or abandoned dogs and cats.

Just as we were leaving ENP to return to city I met Lek. She was radiant and buzzing, having returned from 2-day trek to reintroduce two elephants into a hill tribe community. She thanked me profusely for supporting ENP by volunteering at Journey to Freedom, and both she and Yo asked me to spread the word.

So that’s what I’m doing now. If you find yourself in Chiang Mai, spend a week volunteering with ENP. I promise it will change your life. And meanwhile, don’t support enterprises which harm elephants. You owe it to yourself, and more importantly to them, to take responsibility for their welfare.

If you want to support ENP go to elephantnaturepark.org

 

 

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Travelling through Cambodia

 

I began my journey through Cambodia in Phnom Penh where I spent one of the most intense days of my life.

I was aware of the Khmer Rouge and of Pol Pot’s brutal regime but to be honest I didn’t know in any great detail about the mass genocide in which an estimated 2m people out of a population of just 8m were brutally tortured then murdered between 1975-79.

I had the horrors of those mass killings graphically brought home as I visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – a former school which became the notorious S21 prison, and continued on to Choeung Ek Extermination Centre (Killing Field) outside the city, where mass graves and human remains (teeth, bones, clothes) continue to be unearthed, especially after heavy rains.

The only other occasion where I have been surrounded by other people but everyone is walking around in total silence lost in their own thoughts was when I visited Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. There I openly wept at the incomprehensible acts of violence that one human being could inflict upon another, here I was numbed thinking about the crude weapons (often farm implements) and bare hands they used to kill their helpless victims. Just look at the photo I took of the killing tree.

There is a moment on the audio when you are invited to stroll along a shaded path and listen to a piece of music composed in memory of the dead. It’s haunting yet strangely beautiful.

Because these horrific events happened in the recent past, everyone over the ago of 40 has a story of family suffering tell and, for me, this tragedy seemed to effect the whole mood and feel of the Cambodia. Older people feel that the heart that has been ripped out of the country will never mend, others complain about how difficult it is to earn a decent wage, how poor they are and thus how difficult it is to provide for their family. It’s understandable but depressing.

After my week with Guy’s Trust (see previous blog ‘building a school in Kampot’), my fellow volunteers asked me where I was going. They were surprised when I said I had no idea but that’s the beauty of extended travel with only yourself to think about, you don’t need an immediate plan.

So I kicked back in Kampot, which I hadn’t yet him time to visit properly, strolling about town, enjoying the riverside views and the abundance of cafes selling good coffee and baguettes which are a throwback to French colonisation. There are some interesting things to see in the area so once again I organised a motorbike guide as I really enjoy this quick, open-air way of taking in the sites.

I’ve never considered how salt is ‘harvested’. I realise it comes from the sea (doh!) but I didn’t know how it was dried and collected. I was amazed to see women smaller than me carrying two huge buckets of salt balanced across their tiny shoulders to deposit in a shed from where it would be taken to be cleaned before being exported. My guide had worked on the salt flats when he was younger and told me they do this backbreaking work 6 days a week for $4-5 a day.

Having learned about salt it was time to learn about pepper. Chefs around the world are familiar with Kampot pepper. There are numerous farms in the region – the one I visited being an organic one owned by a Dutchman. The plants produce black, red or white peppers and each plant is watered and harvested by hand which is why the end product is pricey. I actually like the sweet green peppers which are fresh, undried and great with crab – the next leg of my motorcycle diary day.

I hopped on a boat from Kep to tiny Rabbit Island and stepped off onto a lovely beach in a sheltered bay. There was only enough time for a delicious green pepper crab lunch, a swim and a bit of a sunbath before heading back to the mainland, but it was a fun thing to do.

Still undecided where to go next I woke up in the middle of the night with a flash of inspiration. I’ve had a PADI license for 28 years, having taking up diving when my children were very small as a means of having my own space for a few hours and of going someway towards fulfilling my desire to be a female Jacques Cousteau.

However, my last dive was 12 years ago so I decided to head along the coast to do a refresher course, the logic being that the diving isn’t brilliant in Cambodia and therefore it’s a good place to spend half a day in a swimming pool and a day doing two simple dives so that when I hit the major dive sites in Borneo and Indonesia I don’t waste any time. Cunning plan hey.

I found a great Khmer hut in a place called Otres Beach1 (yes there’s an Otres Beach 2), which is a red sand street with a few shops and shacks and a gorgeous long white-sand beach fringed with palms and mangroves on one side and clear blue water – warmer than the water which typically dribbles out of my showers, on the other. With comfy cushions in beach bars playing chilled out music and friendly fellow travellers, it was heaven.

I completed my diving without too much bother and whilst some equipment and rules have changed, in underwater sign language ‘shark’ remains unchanged. There was a fair bit of marine life at beautiful Koh Rong island; anemones, giant sponges, Puffa fish, Angel fish, Palm coral etc which I enjoyed but I had trouble equalising the pressure in ears which made me feel sick. I hope this won’t affect all my dives.

Once again I woke in middle of the night, this time not with a brainwave but by the sound of rain, yes RAIN lashing down. At first I thought my fan was on too loudly, then I felt a drip on my bed and realised the roof was leaking! A quick dash to shove all my things under the bed, move my position away from the drip and back to sleep. In the morning clear blue skies and 35 degrees again.

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Otres Beach 1

Leaving my beach idyll I headed for Siem Reap and the mighty temples of Angkor.

I began by cycling round the town of Siem Reap which most people find dirty and noisy but which I found attractive and buzzy in a rather bizarre, Las Vegas. There’s the usual central market but also boutique shops and artisan enterprises, and a Pagoda set in a large courtyard with unusual sculptures, a long boat, a monastery, where I sat and listened to monks chanting, 3 or 4 pretty bridges linking the right and left banks of a not particularly lovely canal and scores of glitzy 5* hotels whisking wealthy tourists to the temples.

As I cycled around I found myself at Angkor Children’s Hospital visitor centre which I initially thought it was tourist information. I chatted to a volunteer about the hospital and watched a video about its founder and his mission to reduce the number of infant and child mortalities from preventable diseases like malaria, dysentery, HIV, dengue fever.

20 minutes later I found myself giving blood!

200-300 children a day attend the hospital which is also a training centre that sends paediatricians into rural community hospitals to enable children to be treated locally and not make the perilous journey which often results in death.

Until very recently a staggering 65,000 children died every year, 1:5 under five years old. Mortality rates are slowly improving through this remarkable hospital and its sister hospital in Phnom Penh but these are the only two children’s hospitals for the whole country.

As an aside, the checks before I was able to give blood were very thorough. Blood pressure (lower than its been for 25 years), haemoglobin (fine), exposure to Zika virus (nil), age (just the right side of 60), last time I gave blood (a shamefully long time ago). And my prize for being a good girl, a can of Coke, biscuits and a very nice T-shirt. Giving blood is vital in countries like Cambodia so if you’re travelling and see a hospital, stop and ask if they need your blood. I bet they do.

And so to the temples to which I dedicated 2.5 days. First up was the mighty Angkor Wat for (yet another) sunrise. Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy therefore I didn’t see any of the amazing pinks and purples you see in the books but the reflection in the water was still special.

Like Bagan in Myanmar there are countless temples (Wats) and Chedi (stupas) some more impressive than others. More are in a ruined state than I imagined and I don’t know, but somehow they lacked the magic of Bagan. Maybe it’s because they are more spread out and the area is more overgrown so you don’t get the amazing vistas, maybe it’s because they were overrun with loud Chinese tourists, maybe I was suffering from temple overload or maybe I’m still in love with Myanmar. My guess is it’s the latter.

The highlight of my time in Siem Reap was attending Rebecca’s wedding via FaceTime. My darling daughter and fiancé Simon decided to tie the knot a few weeks previously and luckily I was able to be with them. In fact I had pole position because the camera was facing them so I could see and hear everything perfectly. It was actually very moving sitting in my room, headphones on, concentrating on them. Of course I missed out on the champagne and the celebration lunch but I was happy that James and David were with Becca and that it was such a happy occasion.

Hooray for modern technology.

Of course I visited the massive Tonle Sap lake which is the source of all the fish in Cambodia and which rises an amazing 7 metres during the rainy season. This means the villages are built on vast stilts – hard to image such a change in way of living year in year out but once agin it was cloudy so this time sunset was a bit of a damp squib.

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Being led astray

I was fortunate to be invited to dinner by So, who I had met through Guy’s Trust. His wife made traditional Fish Amok with coconut and lemon grass wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. I chatted to their 14 year old super-bright daughter who wants to live in Paris, drank blow-your-head off ice wine with the village elders and listened to So as he told me that despite his father and all his brothers being killed under Pol Pot’s regime, he loves Pol Pot; that he was a puppet of Ho Chi Minh and that one day the history books will tell the truth. You can imagine how difficult this was to comprehend.

I was now at a bit of a crossroads. From Siem Reap I could head east and eventually enter Laos through the Mekong River or I could head west and enter Thailand at the land border.

I decided to go west, taking a bus to Battambang and checking into Family Ganesha guest house with pink lace mosquito net and hello kitty pillow case! What do you want for $4.50, and in fact it was the friendliest place I stayed in Cambodia and I wished I’d embraced the full-on backpacker scene earlier.

Everyone has to do at least one cookery class in SE Asia. I did mine here and really enjoyed going to the market to buy the ingredients, leaning how to make 4 traditional dishes (including Fish Amok) and eating the fruits of my labour. The fact that I won’t be near a kitchen for another 10 months is unimportant.

My last day in Cambodia was good fun. Battembang, like Kampot still retains its faded French charm, including plentiful cafes selling good coffee and chocolate cake, and it also has the famous Bamboo Train. The train is basically planks of bamboo on iron rollers like a raft, all of which can be dismantled and taken off when one ‘carriage’ needs to pass another on the single track. They whizz along at 20kpm which when you’re only a few centimetres off the track is damn fast. Having enjoyed that experience I then went to the circus and had a thoroughly good time being a child again!

So it was time to leave Cambodia. I spent a 3 weeks here getting to know people, exploring the culture, the countryside and the towns and villages. Naturally the highlight was the amazing experience of building the school with Guy’s Trust but on top of that I had some great times by the sea, at the temples and in small towns soaking up everything in my usual sponge-like way.

The country is slowly mending and there is undoubtedly wealth; the sheer number of people driving Lexus cars surprised me, especially as petrol is 80p a litre.

I didn’t interact with as many locals as I did in Myanmar, the children and young people walking around are more reserved but look happy and the adults in the places I visited weren’t so open to chatting.

One thing you notice is quite lot of people who have lost limbs as the result of being victims of land mines of which there are many more undiscovered on the borders with both Thailand and Vietnam. A number of the male victims have become musicians, sitting outside the temples playing traditional music. I would have liked to talk to them.

To end on a more upbeat note, it was wedding season and so everywhere I travelled there were celebrations. It seems the man has to save up about $2,500 to give to his bride’s family. This can take several years but the bride’s family pay for the wedding which lasts 2-3 days. On the day of Becca and Simon’s wedding they were naturally in my thoughts and fortuitously there was a couple at my favourite temple having their photos taken as I passed by. Serendipity indeed.

I’m off to cross into Thailand now. I’ll be will be back in touch soon, meanwhile I really must find out what’s happening in the world. Feel free to update me and apologies for the random order of the photos!

Ginny

 

 

Building a school in Cambodia

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Am I the only person unaware that there are two airports in Bangkok and that they’re an hour’s drive apart? This meant that my connection from Yangon to Phnom Penh was very disconnected. I had 2:5 hrs to exit BKK and check in at DMK. Having learned to sharpen my elbows on a recent visit to China, I decided to be very un-British and queue jump, push and shove, bribe the cab drive with untold riches and smile madly. Nett result; I made it to the departure gate as the flight was called which meant I had time to buy an ice cream, which I’d been craving for a month, before collapsing in my seat, nerves shot to pieces and £50 poorer!

The traffic in Phnom Penh is a sight to behold. Cars jostling with tuk tuks, motor bikes and bicycles, each vying for that tiny gap as they weave their individual paths. There are almost no traffic lights but somehow the traffic keeps flowing and when it gets too congested motor bikes simply mount the pavement sending pedestrians flying like skittles.

I was in PP to meet up with 20+ other people, who like me, were volunteering with Guy’s Trust to help in the construction of a primary school in a small village about 20 minutes from Kampot. The school has a catchment of 300 children who attend in shifts; the little ones from 7-11am and the older ones from 1-5pm. One teacher has 50 children per classroom.

I have never worked on a building site – no surprise there – and don’t usually do anything more strenuous in 35 degrees (not even tennis) than sip Pimms, so my body was in for a shock. However, despite being the hottest and dirtiest I’ve been in my life, it was undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

We arrived at the school to a warm welcome from children lining the path, waving flags and clapping. Dancers and musicians led the way to the veranda where we were officially welcomed by the head teacher, her staff and our site foreman who was probably thinking ‘this is going to be a nightmare’. Fresh coconut and sun hats were distributed and our tasks began.

They ranged from heavy duty digging with pick axes and spades, to rubble shifting, metal work, plumbing, concrete filling and brick laying. This is a big site and therefore, despite hours of hard labour, progress was slow, expect in two specific areas.

Firstly the playground which I worked on most of the time. We transformed an area of compacted earth to a sandy area with swings, ropes and see saws. The sheer joy on the kids faces and their infectious laughter was lovely to witness.

Secondly basins. The school didn’t have anywhere for the children to wash their hands or brush their teeth – a post-break time ritual for the little ones. With some simple plumbing and the construction of brick stacks we installed four basins, which allowed for the water to go straight into the flower beds. Ingenious.

One of the highlights of the day was lunch! A team of cooks miraculously produced the most delicious meals cooked on open fires. We had loads of fresh vegetables, meats, fish, rice, noodles and even chips. Exotic fruits were always available  and also interesting ‘treats’ like coconut paste and sesame steamed in banana leaf. Sugarcane and steamed rice in coconut palms etc.

Regular breaks were essential to re-apply sunscreen, re-hydrate and cool down. They also afforded the opportunity to interact with the children. I went into all the classrooms with my penny whistle and children volunteered to come to the front to sing a nursery rhyme, followed by much cheering and clapping. A favourite was ABC which the whole class joined in with. I also taught them a few hand-banging-on-the-table games (you know, the ones where you have to down a shot if you get it wrong!), and tried to learn to count to ten in Khmer which caused much amusement.

I must mention Guy’s Trust in-country NGO partner Action Aid. The young volunteers were great fun, mucked in with all the tasks and were essential go-betweens to the builders and teachers.

Over the course of our time at the school the teachers, and the head teacher in particular became much warmer towards us whilst the children became much bolder. This meant that when it came time to leave the send off was a highly emotional occasion.

As we left, we gave every child a T-shirt (some more like dresses) and in return they gave each of us a personal, hand drawn thank you card. As we took the last walk down the path the cheering, high-fiving and laughter was deafening. Hugs all rounds and promises to come back to see the finished school, we climbed into the bus, exhausted, reflective and totally elated.

For Tony, Vicky and Alex the project was clearly an emotional roller coaster.  The pride at bringing to fruition months of planning and fundraising to build this the forth school in Guy’s memory and the joy at seeing friends old and new working towards the same goal was evident to us all.  And whilst there was naturally great sadness at having to leave somewhere that would be for ever linked to their son, what an amazing gift to be able to bring new opportunities to hundreds of children, their families and the wider community.

I would like to once again say a massive thank everyone who so generously sponsored me.  And if you didn’t but would lie to, or even feel moved to give again, We have been asked if we could help raise money for books and other teaching materials, and for some of the older children who live some distance away, bicycles.

If you’d like to make a donation please go to: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/virginiagreenwood1

That’s it for now.  My next update will be all about my adventures in Cambodia….

Ginny x