During an exciting volunteering trip in October 2015, a group of Berge Bulk employees visited three different organisations in Cambodia who partner with Berge Bulk’s Marshall Foundation – each of which tackles one of the country’s most pressing societal problems.
Read about the meaningful work our Executive Assistant, Audrey Leong experienced:
After an early arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport, we set off for a long drive to the province Kampong Chhnang, where we spent the day with Social Capital Venture Development (SCVD) Foundation. The foundation aims to provide Cambodian children with safe and clean drinking water. The journey was a bumpy ride on streets full of pot holes and dirt roads. We used the time to ask SCVD’s knowledgeable Country Director hundreds of questions about the foundation’s work and about Cambodia and its people.
My heart melted upon our arrival at a local elementary school, where we were welcomed by a group of smiling and curious children. We had come to help build one of SCVD’s “bicycle-run water pump systems”. SCVD uses a bicycle mechanism to generate the energy for pumping water from a well into containers and through high-tech filters so it becomes safe to drink. I was amazed by how simple and environmentally friendly the bicycle pumps were. It allowed a ten-year-old girl to generate more than ten litres of safe drinking water per hour, without needing any electricity.
With the support of the Marshall Foundation, SCVD has already installed the bicycle water pump systems in 25 schools of the province with great success. Access to safe drinking water has reduced the often lethal water and stomach related illnesses amongst the students by 90 percent.
With the Marshall Foundation partner CamKids (Cambodian Children’s Charity), we visited a clinic and school in Kampong Speu, Cambodia’s second poorest province. Again we were greeted with loads of smiling and curious students. After a tour of the school’s adjacent medical clinic and vegetable garden, we visited each class room and held a lesson to the children about how important it is to remain in school and acquire a good education. We also emphasised how we ourselves, coming originally from three different countries, could only communicate with each other because we knew English. It was amazing to see how eager these children were to learn! When we distributed candy and biscuits to them to congratulate them on their completed school year, their faces lit up. These children’s happiness is not bound to the latest smartphone, a new car, or buying new clothes. Their priorities are different – focused around family and simply having enough to get by.
Our final volunteer work brought us back into the capital Phnom Penh, where we spent a day with the field workers of Operation ASHA (OpASHA). The organisation fights tuberculosis (TB) by bringing treatment to the door-steps of the patients. Behind the field workers, we climbed on their motorcycles and spent the day in the slums and poor community clinics.
It was great to see how Operation ASHA uses modern technology to detect new patients and to track their treatment, ensuring they take the right medication at the right time, and no doses is missed. It was emotionally life-changing to see how people live in the poorest conditions, with entire families suffering from TB, and no proper healthcare system.
I truly thank the Marshall Foundation for sponsoring these important projects and I appreciate the opportunity and privilege to have been able to make these experiences.
You can’t help but be touched by the Cambodian people. They have so little but give so much. Their smiles and warmth, acceptance of their life, and appreciation of even the smallest things are very humbling and a big eye-opener to all of us. I recommend this to everyone.
Audrey Leong (Executive Assistant)