Cambodia’s friends for life.jpg

Cambodia’s friends for life

IN THE Resident’s edition of October 28, 2005, we published a piece about a fundraiser, The Art of Dining, with Geraldine Willcox, president of Friends of Cambodia. Having recently returned from Cambodia, The Resident reporter Natasha Smith caught up with Geraldine.

The Resident: What were the reasons for your visit to Cambodia?

Geraldine Willcox: To find out where money is desperately needed. The most important thing in Cambodia at the moment is education; everyone needs one and this is what will improve its economy. It is the most beautiful place, with wonderful and kind, but very poor people.

T.R: Tell us about the charity.

G.W: There are eight key members, but we have many volunteers. I set it up with my friend Gita Nasta, the vice-president, and we have a board of directors who decide fundraising ideas as well as the best uses for the money, from donations and events.

T.R: What was the place like that

you visited?

G.W: We visited a number of different schools and drop-in centres, but we spent the most time with a particular school, run by a US Vietnam war veteran Richard Steinmetz. On the trip, we decided to put our funds there. It is in a remote area about eight hours’ drive from the capital, Phnom Penh. The school has a boarding house and is run by a lady, who cares for the students. There are 130 pupils at the school, 10 of which are girls. They are given food regularly and, among other things, taught about hygiene, basic arithmetic and English. For fun, they grow vegetables in a garden, and are taught about key foods and how to grow them. They sell what they grow to the boarding house, which gives them some pocket money. They learn the value of money, which gives them a good base for earning their own money in the future

T.R: What was your favourite part

of the trip?

G.W: A few funny things happened to me, like falling off a motorbike and meeting the manager of a drop-in centre whose family is from Almancil! But, the best part had to be watching the children eat. The food they get at the school is better than what they would get at home, but it could still definitely improve. It was also wonderful to see that some children, ignoring their rumbling bellies, wanted to talk to us instead, to practice their English.

T.R: What will they do with the money you raise for them?

G.W: They need to complete the dining hut, one of the walls needs to be finished and they will definitely need more sleeping quarters, as there will be more girls arriving, which is wonderful. A constant supply of money will ensure the children get the best care and education possible.

T.R: What is your latest

fund-raising incentive?

G.W: On June 3, we are hosting a viewing of three beautiful contrasting gardens near Carvoeiro, between 2pm and 6pm. It’s 10 euros for adults, five euros for children 12 and under, and tickets are available from the Carvoeiro bookshop. You can also call 918 484 767 or 967 231 688; failing that, you can buy on arrival. WineMine will have a wine tasting stall and there will be refreshments and much more. It will be a great day and it’s all for a very good cause!