What a day!!!

 Posted by at 8:01 PM
Jan 262014
 

I started the day off by packing my backpack full of gifts… I was very excited to get back to Tonle Sap lake. I had visited it on my first trip and I have been wanting to get back there ever since.

So Eng and I headed back. Its a bit of a drive especially in a tuk tuk. When we arrived we got onto one of the boats and headed out on the lake. It was all so familiar….. The smells, the sounds, and seeing all the people. They all take great pride in their boats… as it is their home as well. 

We handed out all our bags and even gave out some bracelets.. I think the pictures will tell the story better than I can from this visit.

 

 

 

I hope you can see the little baby in this picture…. She is already wearing her new clothes.

 

 

 

 

After the day was through at the lake, my tuk tuk driver Eng invited me to his house for dinner.. I of course agreed to go and was so thankful that he would be willing to welcome me into his home.

What an evening we had. I met just about everyone in his village. They all came over to Eng’s house and were all so kind. We sat around the table for hours talking and laughing. Even though we did not speak the same language we all were able to relate to each other. I felt as if I had known these men for years!!!! I also got to spend a lot of time with Eng’s daughter who is 5. She was a riot. Luckily I had a few presents in my camera bag and was able to give her and her cousin each one.

 

They were both so adorable and absolutely loved their gifts.

For dinner we had snake soup. And it was amazing… I kid you not, one of the best meals I have had in a long time. We all sat and ate out of this giant bowl of soup for hours… And so did everyone in the village. People would walk by or ride by on a bike and Eng and all his friends would yell to them to come in and eat… and they all did. Such a community here. Its seems to be that way everywhere I go in Cambodia. I love this place and I will surely miss my new friends..

 

 

 

Day 2

 Posted by at 2:40 AM
Jan 252014
 

The day started off amazingly!!! I was able to meet up with Bill and Jill Morse this morning for breakfast at a little cafe down the street from where Im staying. We sat and caught up for a couple hours… We are up to great things here. We made plans for the week and I will be at the museum/orphanage on Monday working with everyone there. Tuesday we will be making visits to two different schools. Wednesday we are visiting the site where the school WE are going to be building is located!!! I cannot wait for that!! To see all this work that you all have put in become a reality is going to be beautiful!!!

After we had breakfast I headed back to the hostel to meet up with my tuk tuk driver… We had planned on visiting some villages and schools way outside of town. It was really awesome meeting up with him yesterday and knowing that he gets what we are trying to do. He was just as excited as me to get out there and interact with the kids in the outlying areas..

And here are a few pictures from the day…. Yes the bubbles were an absolute hit yet again..

I took video of all the children and showing them what everything was in the bag. I am still taken back at how some of the things we take for granted… Some of the kids came out to me as we were leaving asking what the shampoo was or what the soap was…

However their faces were all lit up when we showed up and took them all into the classroom to hand them their presents.. Watching them with the toys and building them their airplanes and flying them… I wish you all could have been there. Hopefully some of the pictures can show how happy they were. I will have to get the video uploaded at some point so you can hear their non-stop laughter. Its truly amazing how you all have come together and really bought in on “Presents for Presence”… your presence is very much felt here in Cambodia.

We then headed down the road to a different school. This is where we handed out most of the clothes and beanies… Now this was the first time we had ever handed out clothes.. Let me tell you that this had just as much if not more of an impact on the children and me… Now most of clothes we had was for boys and so I gave the girls beanies as well (some of the boys too) and their reaction was incredible. They have siblings at home and through my tuk tuk driver, he was saying that they were all talking about taking the clothes home to their younger brothers. That really drives home what we are doing. This is all about community and how we all are taking care of each other. These children get it and I got to learn something from them today. Its not about what is in it for me, but what can I do with what I have to help others…. I really believe thats the lesson we can all take away from this today…

We then just started driving down the road and pulling off if we saw a home that had little children or babies. We had a lot of baby clothes left and we both felt this was the best way to get them to where they are needed. We stopped a few times to hand out the clothes and visit with the people. Yet again, everyone was so grateful….

 

 

All and all we had another amazing day handing out the presents and clothes on your behalf. It was really a pleasure to get to do this with someone that was just as enthusiastic about as I am. My tuk tuk driver gets just as much of a kick out of it as I do. He gets really excited to know that we are heading out to help and give gifts to the people of his country….. He got even more excited when I told him I had more and that we will be going back out tomorrow!!!!!

 

 

My First Day Back

 Posted by at 5:24 PM
Jan 242014
 

I spent most of the day walking through Siem Reap… I can not explain what its like to be back again.. Its like a long awaited trip home.. It is an overwhelming sense of peace. I have missed being here so much.

I met this man today while walking through town. His name is Mot Douk. He told me his story and relayed to me that there are many people like him that get no support from the government. Even after giving their limbs and almost their lives for their country.

And yet this man, a father of 4, does not beg. He does not speak of his plight unless asked directly. He lost his arms 22 years ago from a landmine blast……

We continued to speak of what it is I was doing here, and where I am from and what we are setting out to accomplish.. Like so many before, he was surprised, and very grateful..

I was quickly reminded yet again at the power of conversation. Its moments like this that has brought our foundation to where its at. Its because of Mot Douk and the many like him that we are here…

I headed back to the hostel and ran into my tuk tuk driver from last year!!!! We talked about other schools to visit and possibly heading back to the rehab facility that I was removed from on the first trip. It was again a reminder of the impact we are having here. The fact that he remembered me and recalled what we did together last time gave me such a sense that we are always here. He drives people around everyday… and he remembered me….

 

 

 

 

Apr 262013
 

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by one of our biggest supporters Zeb Welborn. Zeb has been with us since the very beginning and with his sister, are the ones responsible for our website. Thank you Zeb for considering me for your podcast. It was a pleasure and I hope you all enjoy listening!!!!

 

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/defining-success-podcast/id619459909

Jan 282013
 

January 27, 2013

 

I have been home for a few days now. I have spent most of that time in bed because I have been really sick. Not to sure what I got, but it has totally knocked me out. Today is really the first time I have felt well enough to be up for more than an hour or two. I would like to share more about something I touched on in an earlier blog. I mentioned that it is not easy leaving Cambodia. I have been thinking a lot about that, and why I feel the way I do. I would like to elaborate for you…..

I have done a lot of traveling in my life. I feel fortunate that I have been able to see so many different cultures and meet so many amazing people throughout the world.  I have traveled to third world countries as well as some of the most modern. And my travels have kept me in different parts of the world for months at a time. 2 months all through South America into Patagonia. 2 months through the UK and Russia. Weeks in Spain and Morocco. From France to Switzerland. I have also traveled extensively throughout the US and Canada. I can say, without a doubt, I have never been anywhere in the world thus far, that is like Cambodia. This is not meant to offend anyone. I have truly loved the experiences I have had in other parts of the world. Its different there.

The more I am away, the more I realize what it is that constantly draws me back to Cambodia. It isn’t just the cause. I love what we are doing. I am passionate about what we are doing. What it is, is the people. You can walk down any street and see smiles. You can meet any one person and they are happy to see you. THEY DONT EVEN KNOW YOU??!! I see love in their faces. You feel loved in their presence. And its not only when we are visiting a school or orphanage. You could be sitting in a sidewalk restaurant or driving down a dirt road in a “tuk tuk” and you will feel it. From the kids waving and saying “hello” as you drive by, or catching the eye of someone casually walking. Love and affinity for the general sense of people, is alive and thriving. You cant help but be consumed by it. It brings peace to your being, to your soul. It puts your mind at ease. To be in a country where potential disaster lurks in the fields near schools and villages, one would think you should be stressed out. And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times when the threat is very real, however, we move forward and ahead with our mission.

In a country where it would be extremely easy and just for the people to complain, they don’t. They do understand the need, but they don’t demand it. As a society, they are making what they have work. And what they have an abundance of is community, love for everyone, and strength. When I break it all down to its simplest form, it really is a model for the world. The sense of unity. The feeling that at any moment, the person that doesn’t have much, would give you what they have if you were in need, is palpable.

We should all be proud that we have nurtured that by “Our” presence there. It really is an easy concept to buy into. What we are accomplishing and for what our mission is, its truly every sense of serving our fellow “man”. Standing for others, when we could easily chose not to. I have to say that the ideals surrounding Complete Cambodia, are truly Cambodian. I know that all of us involved feel very strongly about what we have committed to getting done. I want to take it a step further. These ways of being for others within the confines of this foundation, take them into your personal life. Assure that the love and affinity that I described from being in Cambodia is alive and thriving here as well. As I am sure it is already present in your own lives, lets see if we can create more of an abundance around us. The thing that I have learned from my time spent in Cambodia is that we cant measure this way of being. That is to say that we can never have enough.  It will not only do amazing things for the foundation and our mission, but imagine what it would do here on a daily basis. Taking a stand for each other here, at home, like you have for people on the other side of the globe. It will be powerful……….I am sure of it.

Jan 242013
 

January 25, 2013

 

As I am now in China waiting to board the plane to Los Angeles, I am beginning to take some deep breaths. Our second journey is close to completion. Im taking more time now to reflect on the past 9 days, and its tough. I will confess that as much joy as these trips bring, with that comes equally as much heartache. And please don’t get me wrong. There isn’t anything else Id rather be doing. I am always present to why we go and how much I am drawn to this cause. Its leaving that is hard. When you know that there is so much to be done, and you have to go. When all you want to do is take every child with you, and help every Man and Woman in any way you can. We have created so many smiles and brightened so many peoples day, that all I want to do is stay and continue to do so.

From visiting Rea, interviewing him and meeting his family to being in the field with CSHD, the trip has moved so fast. I have gone through so many emotions from extreme joy to anguishing over wanting to do more. The pictures do tell the story. I see in the photos, my experience and I hope you do to. I can relive those moments without the pictures, but it is powerful to sit and look in the eyes of the people we have touched. It presents me to what an impact WE are having.

I hope everyone at home reading this gets what an important part you have all played in this. Really get that your presence was felt on the other side of the globe. We had 47 volunteers build bags and bring donated gifts that were delivered to over 500 people. YOU impacted that many lives. People whom you’ll never meet. I consider it a gigantic privilege to have acted on your behalf. I continue to read how proud of me you all are and Im grateful for the praise. However, this is happening because of you. You all are what makes up Complete Cambodia. You all were cause in the smiles. You all are the reason that there is hope in Cambodia. Please take a moment and reflect for yourself what YOU ALL have accomplished.

This trip has been a huge success. I want to thank the Cambodian Self Help De-mining organization for all they contributed to our time in Cambodia. I would like to also thank Bill and Jill Morse again for all the time they spent with us and organizing the overnight trip to the mine field. Last but not least, Aki Ra. I want to give a resounding thank you to him for all he is doing and has done for his people. To be in the presence of such a great man was an honor. I look forward to seeing them all very soon. This journey has created more than just partnerships, Its created what I foresee as life long friendships.

I cant imagine a life any different then this. I am at times surprised at where we are with the foundation in such a short period of time. At the same time, I am reminded that its because of everyone that has taken the time to get involved. You didn’t have to and you made a choice to stand for others. We have all taken on something bigger than ourselves, and in my eyes, that is living and living powerfully. The more people that get involved, the more momentum we create. And who knows where we will be in the future with our mission, but with supporters like you all, I am clear that we will Complete Cambodia.

Again, thank you all so much for all you have been for me. What an extraordinary group of people you truly are. And I have to give a special thanks to Amanda McKinnon, my cousin, for coming on this trip and documenting it. She did such an amazing job and is so talented. Im proud and thankful that you were here.

See you soon Cambodia!!!!! I will miss you!!!!!

 

More pictures to come soon.. I promise.

Jan 232013
 

January 23, 2013

 

This morning started out at 8:30. We got to sleep in a little bit after our night in the field with the CSHD team. Bill and Jill Morse picked us up and we headed out to Monkey Head Lake School. This is one of the schools that they have built in an area that was cleared by CSHD. At present time, HALO and CMAC are still clearing large plots of land in this area. The area being close to the Thai border was heavily mined and there was a lot of fighting in this region during the Khmer Rouge.

We drove for close to 5 hours out to the village. The roads were mostly dirt for the last 2 hours and since the GPS didn’t work out where we were, we kept having to stop to make sure we were headed the right direction. Eventually the village Chief met us on his motto and we followed him in to the school.

The school is not large but it does serve its purpose. It was probably 400 square foot, wood sided building with a tin roof. It was serving close to 65 kids. The nature of the trip was to deliver some school supplies and pay the teacher his wages for the last 9 months. Imagine that….. working and not getting paid for 9 months? The teacher of this school is an extraordinary person. That just goes to show you how wonderful these people are and how much they do care about the future of these young people.

 

 

We met all the kids and handed out the supplies. Then we handed out the presents. Its always exciting to see the looks on the kids faces. A lot of the parents were there too and to see the expression of gratitude from them is something I will never forget. It really drives home how special what you all have done truly is. It affects everyone. To watch the parents play with the kids as they open up the bags……I am at a loss for words to describe it.

We also enjoy opening the bags with the kids just the same. When the kids find out what it is that’s in them and we show them how to play with the toys, their smiles could light up the sky. They are instantly moved to laughter, as are we.

We finished up by Bill and I showing the kids how to throw a frisbee. It continues to amaze me how the little things in life we never really think about. It goes back to the showing the kids what crayons are…….. However, giving them something that they have never seen before is really an awesome experience.

Before we headed home, we had lunch at the village Chief’s house. He had cooked for us to show his appreciation. We sat on a huge table and ate rice with eggs and vegetables. We all chatted and shared a few laughs. I took a stroll around the area. They had chickens and pigs. A lot of dogs running around and a bird that spoke Khmer!!! Directly across the road was a CMAC camp. I didn’t stroll very far as I knew they were de-mining in the area.

We headed back to Siem Reap. It was going to be a long ride home but well worth the trip. I have a better idea now how to build and fund a school. This will be a project that Complete Cambodia will be taking on with the CSHD. Together we can get more done and quicker. As we left the school I timed it till I saw another school. It was almost 45 minutes before we came across another primary school. I couldn’t believe it. In Los Angeles it seems like every 10 blocks you can find an elementary school. That shows you just how great the need is….

As we got closer to Siem Reap, we blew a tire on the van. We were probably only 25 minutes from home. The driver and I changed it in about 15 minutes and we were back on our way. They dropped us of at Molly’s and we said our goodbye’s. I cant thank Bill and Jill Morse for all they have done for us. As much as we are in support of them, I feel like they are just as, if not more supportive of us. I really look forward to working together. I know we are going to accomplish great things, and with velocity!!!!

We are headed home to the states tomorrow. I want to thank you all again for being so amazing!!

Jan 222013
 

January 22, 2013

 

We made it back safe and sound!! What another amazing expierence!! This was by far the most enlightening part of the trip as far as the needs of the de-mining teams. I first want to thank Bill Morse and Aki Ra for allowing us to spend the night with the team in the field. I would also like to extend much grattitude to the entire de-mining team that took us in as their own last night. What an honor it was for me to be with them for the last 40 hours or so.

We headed out in the morning yesterday around 7:30am. We had a very long ride out to the Laos border. It took close to 6 hours to get there. The last 2-2 1/2 hours were along a very bumpy and slow moving dirt road. We were all piled into a van so it wasnt so bad. We talked most of the way with Aki Ra and Bill. Heard more stories of how Aki Ra used to de-mine, and how they got established to where the CSHD is today.  We also got a nap in on the ride as we were sure we wouldnt be getting to much sleep.

We arrived at the hut that the team is staying at and unloaded a few things. Then we were off to the field. It was about a mile down the road and probably less than that to a village of men, woman, and children. We suited up and got a short briefing on safety and began the long walk towards the active site. We had body armor on with helmets and shields to protect our faces. We were wearing the exact same equipment the de-miners wear. It was extremely hot and cumbersome, and probably weighed close to 10 pounds.

We entered the site and began walking the line. The teams work 25 meters apart at all times, so they are hard to pick out from a distance, and they are working in dense vegetation. They manually clear the vegetation with shears and if working, a weed whacker. Its a painstakingly slow and tedious process. Each member of the team clears roughly 100 meters a day. They work in 1 meter wide grids throughout the field all working towards the center. After they have cleared the vegetation and cleared the area with their metal detectors they burn off the field. So as we were walking around, there were fires burning all around. It really felt like a war zone. And also added to the anxiety of being in a mine field as you can imagine.

As we walked through the field, Aki Ra showed me the UXO (unexploded ordinance) that has been found so far. It was mostly cluster munitions that were American made. He also showed us a crater from a 500lb bomb that was on the site. We continued walking through the field watching the team at work. You really get a great sense of how focused each de-miner is when you see them at work. It takes great patience to do this job. They have very strict procedures to follow and I stood next to one of the de-miners as they were using their tools to probe the dirt. They had found something with the metal detector and before they can move on, they must find out what it is. I was kind of frozen as I watched. I was so focused on what they were doing that I forgot how close I was to potential disaster if it detonated. Bill whispered to me, “Steve, you probably want to move yeah?” I came out of the daze or tunnel vision I was in and we all moved on.

We headed back to the area that the UXO were and Aki Ra set them up for detonation. As he did that we moved on to a safe distance. 250 meters is the standard for all detonations. Aki Ra and Sambo came back to where we were with the remote detonation device. We were instructed to put our shields down and kneel. He gave a 3 count and then detonated the TNT. Even expecting the explosion doesnt prepare you. You could feel the pressure in your chest from the blast. It sent a could about 40 feet high. We could hear debris flying over our heads and landing behind us. It was intense. I could only imagine what it would be like if a mine had gone off. Or if I mine had gone off in close proximity to us. The devastation that would occur is something we cant comprehend. You see the pictures of people that have been injured and lost limbs, but the psychological damage that you would sustain from living through something like that……..It was something I really hadnt thought a lot about yet. Being there, for a detonation gave me a different prespective to what victims of these blast must live with everyday…… and we were 250 meters away.

We loaded the trucks back up and headed back to the camp. We set up our hammocks and unloaded all the supplies for the night. The team began cooking dinner and working on their equipment. One of the trucks had gotten a hole in the radiator, so myself and 3 of the other team members did what we could to repair it. We pulled it out and used basically JB weld to hold it till they could get someone out there with a torch. We finished working on the truck using light only from head-lamps. The rest of the team during that time was sitting behind the hut being taught how to read. They do this every night for about an hour. We all then had dinner together. We ate noodles and vegetables with rice. We sat around and chatted for a while. The sun goes down around 6:30, so by 8 most everyone is getting in their hammocks and getting some rest.

I got in my hammock and was in heaven. Even reflecting on the days events, I was so at peace. You could hear dogs howling in the distance. Crickets chirping away all night. There was a light, cool breeze. I could stay out here forever…..

We all got up around 6am, as thats about the time the sun rises. We all ate breakfast and broke down camp, loaded up the truck and headed back to the mine field. We talked more in depth about the de-mining operations throughout Cambodia as well as the site we were at. We walked through the field and again I was in awe of the work the de-miners do. The pictures do tell the story, however, without standing by and watching them, I dont know if you can get how impressive it truly is. I held one of the metal detectors and you can feel how after an extended amount of time, they get real heavy. And its only 8am and probably 80 degrees and with our equipment on, 90-95 degrees. Only to get hotter as the day goes on.

We headed back to camp after a few hours and talked some more with Aki Ra and we shared a laugh reflecting on our breakfast in Los Angeles a few months ago. We said our goodbyes and many thanks to everyone for being so amazing to us. I really felt like I was part of the team. I am extremely proud that I was able to have this expierence with these men and woman. I might even have an opportunity to fill in as their medic for a 26 day deployment in a few months, and it would be an honor to serve in that capacity for them. They are all MY HERO’S…..

 

Amanda and I got back to where we are staying and grabbed some dinner and headed out to get our feet massaged by fish!!!! I cant really explain it other than sticking your bare feet into a giant aquarium. It was BIZARE!!!!

Off to sleep now. We are headed out to one of the schools that the CSHD organization has built to see how its done and so we can get a better idea of what its going to take to build our own. There should be a lot of kids there so we will be taking the last of the “presents” with us..

 

Good night all. I love you and will be seeing you soon.

Jan 202013
 

January 20, 2013

We are heading out in the morning to spend the night in the field with the CSHD organization. We will be with Bill Morse and Aki Ra as well as the de-mining team close to the Lao border. Check in a day or two for the blog about that journey. We will be out of touch for the next few days but I just want you all to know how much you all mean to me and this cause. Im constantly reminded of how lucky I am and these people are to have you all on their side. In my eyes, you all are hero’s

See you all soon