While in Cambodia in 2005, we met and became very attached to a group of orphans near Angkor Thom. These children inspired us, and eventually became the inspiration to start Guerrilla Aid. It was only fitting that our first official project was created to benefit them, so we returned with a representative from the UCLA Athletic department to give these kids sporting equipment, school supplies, funding for a new teacher, along with donations for the local clinic.
These amazing kids are why
Guerrilla Aid came into existence.
For some reason, when I got home these kids and their existence really played on my mind - eventually becoming the inspiration for starting this little organization, Guerrilla Aid.
I walked down through their village with a picture taken the previous trip, and was greeted by the monks - who told me a couple of the boys had changed villages, and the others were at school. My heart slowed down a bit, and as I turned to leave saying I’d come back, a monk pointed and said, “Look! See! They are coming!” I looked up to see one of the boys, then another, until all the rest came down the path.
My heart started racing as they arrived and just looked up at me. I pulled out the picture and they started pointing to themselves, remembering the spot we took it. I spoke with them through one of the monks, telling them what they meant for me, how they changed me, and that I had a few things for them.
As we looked around their huts, they had no toys whatsoever. Nothing. So when we pulled out large bags full of soccer balls, footballs, UCLA Soccer Camp and Guerrilla Aid T-shirts - they went crazy! It was AMAZING! They started bouncing the balls, and then to watch them just play with these things was beyond fantastic.
We went back every day, took them school supplies donated by UCLA, taught them the ABC’s and how to spell their names in English, and gave instruction to the monks on how to carry on a basic educational program.
In addition, we also took a donation of toys, medical supplies, and clothes collected through Guerrilla Aid to Jayavarman VII Children’s Hospital. This is a free hospital for children in Cambodia sponsored by foreign governments, and while we were there, we gave blood. In Cambodia they are in desperate need of help combating a flu-like disease where the children need a blood transfusion to prevent death. So it was the least we could do. (I recommend anyone traveling to a third world country to check the local hospitals to see if they need a blood or plasma donation).
By the end of the trip our Khmer was about as good as their English, but we seemed to understand each other. It was an emotional trip most of the time, for this whole experience meant so much on so many different levels - but it was near the end of the trip when Ric and I lost it…
We were all just goofing around, and they looked at Ric and me and said “Mit Piet” (friend), then one of them looks up at us, points to himself and says, “Bhon (buh-own)" (little brother). We had to look away as tears filled our eyes when we realized we really had made a difference - both of us overwhelmed at the difference they had made to us.
As the trip was winding down I don’t think we could have said “Mit Piet, Bhon Bhon" (little brothers), or hearing them say “Mit Piet” or “Bhan” (big brother), more. Ric and I shed quite a lot of tears and hugged them all goodbye.
To actually emotionally connect, and to watch Ric (who had no idea what he was getting in to) as the experience changed his life forever – solidified in my mind that this is what Guerrilla Aid is to be about. An organization that can provide access to intense/hands-on volunteer work where anyone can figure out what they want to do, where they want to go, and we’ll help get them there. This work is too important to not try to help others accomplish similar goals.
It was absolutely one of the greatest, if not THE greatest experience of my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, because it was a culmination of much thought and preparation, and was the beginning of fulfilling my dream.
Many thanks to Ric Coy and UCLA for making this project possible.
So… now it is up to you. This was the first of my many projects, but what about you? Where are you going to go? How will you help? It’s time for you to decide.
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