Just over ten years ago, we first met Billy Gorter, Founder and Executive Director of This Life Cambodia (TLC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We still remember his excitement and enthusiasm when he first told us about how he was approached by members of a community just outside the centre of Siem Reap who had big dreams of starting a community centre in their village.
I held fond memories of my travels through South East Asia. The grind of city living and 9-5 was taking it’s toll on my natural state of wanderlust. I wanted to explore, adventure, learn – and throw myself in the deep end of a wild experience. My teenage dream to live and work in a developing country was still in the forefront of my mind. As a strong willed young woman, I knew I would see my dream into fruition – I just hadn’t worked out how to yet.
Siem Reap, Cambodia, has been my home for the past seven years. It is a country of contrasts and smiles. The town is booming thanks to the increase in tourism; tour buses and 4x4s are everywhere. Very different from seven years ago when the only cars were taxis doing the Phnom Penh run or World Food Programme 4x4s. But step back from the main tourist area and visit villages where bicycles and motorbikes are the main form of transport and experience how many Cambodians continue to live a life that has changed little in hundreds of years.
Knowing a little help can make a big difference, but conscious that the wrong delivery can have negative results, Jo and her fellow trustee, Tanya, put their heads together and set up Harnessing Opportunities through Play and Education (HOPE) as a registered charity in England & Wales with the aim to raise awareness and funds to support existing programmes in Cambodia assisting young people with their education and social development.