Each year a group of Grade 12 graduates travel with yLead to Cambodia, spending the week creating connections, exploring the Cambodian culture and immersing in the local community with the support of Feeding Dreams Cambodia.
Through COVID-19 we have learnt the importance of connection as a global community. Connection was unexpectedly stripped away from us like we’d never before imagined or experienced. For the Help Out 2019 crew (which I was fortunate enough to be a part of), our journey of understanding the impact of true human connection began in November 2019. Borders were open and Feeding Dreams Cambodia was full of volunteers like ourselves, contributing to the prosperity of the school. For me, this was a trip like no other. Everyone grew to understand the impact of love; having a big, open heart and the value of a smile and laughter.
Feeding Dreams is a school in Cambodia, created for the poorest of the poor. Students from as young as three years old learn English, are fed a hot meal every day and share an abundance of love with both staff and each other. Sadly, Feeding Dreams have being doing it tough recently as the limits on international travel have resulted in a huge decline in volunteers visiting the school.
In a time where connection is valued so much more by many on a day-to-day basis, Feeding Dreams has reminded us of the power that lies within memories.
I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon and share some of our memories from Feeding Dreams. This is a reminder to us and them that our connection is alive and as bright as ever. We are so grateful to carry the legacy of Feeding Dreams with us every day, despite the barriers that separate us for the time being.
yLead Travel embark on an 8-day trip to Cambodia and Feeding Dreams with a group of Grade 12 graduates each year; as a peek into the environment Feeding Dreams creates, I’ve asked past participants to share their beloved memories from their experiences…
Feeding Dreams and their community grew how we understand the impact of human connection.
Until we can safely reunite, we will keep our connection with their community alive with our memories, remembering to reflect on them a little more often.
Written by Mika Francis | Kenilworth | 2019 Mentor
Our Favourite Memories
Walking into the school on day 1 and seeing how happy the kids were to see you. They really made me forget everything that was going on in the world and just focus on spending quality time with them. – Nathan Basset | Narangba | 2016 Mentor
A standout memory of mine would have been working with the children and seeing their glowing faces when we arrived. Each day we were embraced with hugs, high fives or fist bumps and showered in love by the children at Feeding Dreams. Their attitude towards learning was so inspiring as education is so incredibly valued for them. – Lahni Edwards | Gympie | 2019 Participant
A standout moment for me was after having one day with a class which was amazing, the second day came round and I thought about what classroom I would go into next but two little girls came straight to me and dragged me back to the same classroom. Their smiles when I was helping and teaching really made me feel special and the joy within the classroom for a second morning was really something else. – George Conlon | Kedron | 2019 Mentor
I think about walking through the slums and delivering rice to families in the Feeding Dreams community almost daily. I clearly remember breathing in the smell that most people find gut wrenching as we walked through the slums. My heart shattered looking at the dark, murky water that they drank from and rubbish surrounding their feet. Despite this, I was simultaneously filled with hope. Every time I saw the beautiful smile of a young girl in a bright yellow dress running by, and the gentle smile of a mum when she opened up her home and allowed me inside. I felt so overwhelmed by how much pain there is in the world. However, at the same time my eyes were opened to the immense beauty in people, and how much I have to learn. – Caitlin Oschadleus | Norwest | 2019 Participant
Connection at Feeding Dreams Cambodia
Determined. Persistent. Caring. I definitely didn’t expect to form such strong bonds with my yLead family let alone the staff at Feeding Dreams.– Liam Barker | South Launceston | 2019 Participant
Unconditional. Full-of-Light. Loving. From the very moment I entered Feeding Dreams I felt so welcomed and part of the family. I could tell our connection was unconditional. They would welcome all walks of life with such warmth, positivity and love and be there for you through anything. As my time there came to an end it was evident that I was always welcome back to Feeding Dreams with open arms and that they would always be family. The connection of spreading love and light into the children’s lives and into mine also only grew more as I spent more time there. – Emma Belgraver | Modbury Heights | 2018 Participant
Love. Connection. Joy. All three of these grew stronger as the days passed. The experiences are one of a kind and also help develop those connections. – Jonty Sleep | Moura | 2018 Mentor
Wholesome. Family. Home. As I got off the plane it felt like I was stepping into my second home with a massive family. The team we took were incredible young people and we were able to build a big family environment for the whole trip. We pushed each other when we needed to and were able to help each other out when we needed it. – Nathan Basset | Narangba | 2016 Mentor
Proud (of the way I’ve watched them continue to grow). Humbled. Inspired. – Liv Turner | Cheltenham | 2018 Mentor
Authentic. Connection. Love. – Mika Francis | Kenilworth | 2019 Mentor
Joyful, Heart-Warming. Optimistic. I definitely didn’t think I would enjoy going to the school as much as I actually did. Receiving hugs, high fives and smiles every corner I turned showed how thankful they were to have us there. I am very confident in their future and what everyone can achieve at Feeding Dreams. They are all such amazing people that wear their heart on their sleeves day in, day out. – George Conlon | Kedron | 2019 Mentor
Love. Passion. Resilience. – Lahni Edwards | Gympie | 2019 Participant
Raw. Real. Beautiful. Although we had just met the students and staff, they welcomed us with open arms and hearts. I know the connections I formed with both the staff and students will stay with me for life. I have already learnt so much and am excited to continue to develop, learn and grow our relationships. The Help Out crew were just phenomenal, I think we clicked so well as a group because everyone had the courage to be their authentic selves and accept and love the authenticity of the rest of the group. Our vibe and spirit was immediately really special and as we learned more and grew together over the trip it became even harder to say goodbye (or see you later should I say) at the airport. – Caitlin Oschadleus | Norwest | 2019 Participant
Lessons from Cambodia
I learnt what it meant to love unconditionally. These children form strong bonds with you almost immediately and aren’t afraid to show their love for us. That’s the sort of love I want to be able to spread now that I’m home. – Jonty Sleep | Moura | 2018 Mentor
To be happy, you only need to be around those whom you love and care for. The greatest gift is in the love and kindness they share. – Lahni Edwards | Gympie | 2019 Participant
Having a mindset to listen, rather than a predetermined desire to help in a certain way will bring real change. So often we can think about what we have to offer without building a relationship or listening to what others actually need. The importance of actively listening is something that I am aiming to get better at everyday, in every conversation I have. – Caitlin Oschadleus | Norwest | 2019 Participant
When I met the Khmer children, they came to me with open arms, big smiles, welcoming hugs and high fives. They were so eager to learn English, for me to join in their games and to show and share new things with me. These beautiful children did not care where I was from, what I looked like, how old I was or whether I was wearing the latest trendy shoes. Feeding Dreams taught me to be open minded, to not be too fast to judge, to be kind and welcoming to everyone I meet. They taught me that we can all be so different; we might not speak the same language or be the same age, but love brings people together. I need to spread more of that same light in my own life to others. – Emma Belgraver | Modbury Heights | 2018 Participant
A lesson I’ve learnt from Cambodia is that if you’re passionate about something that there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your goals. – Liam Barker | South Launceston | 2019 Participant
I thought I was going over to teach the kids some English and show them up at soccer. However, they were a lot better at soccer than I am and the whole time I remember being there realising I was the one being taught. My one big lesson was “Don’t want for more than you have.” Something I reflected on a lot after I left Cambodia was realising that they are so happy because they are content with what they have. Even though that may be a little, they are happy with it and I think about that all the time now I am back at home. – Nathan Basset | Narangba | 2016 Mentor
A lesson I learnt was to always smile. A smile goes a long way to brightening someone’s day despite what they may be going through or what you’re going through. It can fill someone’s heart with joy and energy to go about their days with a spring in their step and a positive attitude. There’s no time in our days to sit around moping so it’s best to live life with a grin. – George Conlon | Kedron | 2019 Mentor
Regardless of where you live, what language you speak, financial status, health or opportunities, human connection and optimism can go a very long way. – Liv Turner | Cheltenham | 2018 Mentor
Having a big heart, and being quick to love is a strength, not a weakness. The Khmer are proof that if you have a big heart and smile often, your world becomes a better place. – Mika Francis | Kenilworth | 2019 Mentor