Written by Amanda Martin and Samnang Pak, 2014 Southeast Asia: Cities & Sanctuaries Program Leaders.
It’s pouring rain, the bus was 2 hours late, our beds are wet and the kids are LOVING IT!!!! Monsoon season is in full swing here in Cambodia! Don’t worry! We are prepared. Dancing in the rain, laundry in the rain, hair washing in the rain, soccer in the rain, long-romantic walks in the rain, we’ve been ready for the rain from the beginning! Now, we are at the beach breaking and singing with Tiny Toones… in the rain! Although, the sun did come out to play on our last afternoon!
Tiny Toones is ranked one of the top 7 NGOs in Cambodia. Working with marginalized inner-city street youth in Phnom Penh, the organization is getting kids off the street and back into the classroom. Their teachers and staff are former street kids who are passionate about hip-hop, breaking, music, and education. These kids are drawn in by their passion and are the next generation who will take on the torch at Tiny Toones. Their teachers selected the kids who would go on the retreat with us based on their showing of potential, respect, dedication, intelligence, and leadership. Our gang of 11 OGers is now kicking it with 13 Tiny Toones kids ranging from as young as nine years old to about seventeen, many of whom have never been to the ocean before, including one of our own!
We spent a few days in the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh, before heading to the beach. During the day, the city is hot, dusty, and busy, but at night the charm of Cambodia takes over as the palaces and temples light up and everyone heads out into the parks to enjoy the break in heat. We visited the Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison, understanding more completely the tragic history of genocide the country experienced such a short time ago.
A visit to the Tiny Toones center lifted our spirit as we took part in a dance class and were met with boundless energy! A dance party and BBQ with some of the TT staff, prior to their trip to Australia and Singapore for hip-hop workshops, left everyone in the group on a high and eager to learn some more moves and plan a killer retreat for the next generation.
We went to the local market to grab a stockpile of food for the next few days and headed out to our house in the suburbs of Cambodia for a massive slumber party. Bodhi and Izza, our cats, were happy to have all the attention, especially from those who were allergic to them. Sorry Mary!
Sand castle competitions, countless games, a Khmer movie, and a few workshops focusing on building confidence and communication skills filled the last few days with laughter and learning. The blindfolded relay and the construction of towers made of gummy bears and spaghetti had everyone working on their communication and teamwork. We also played a really interesting game looking at social justice but on a smaller scale of sharing, being aware of the situation other’s might be in and making the best of what you’ve got. The group with the least resources made the coolest replica of the Tiny Toones centre, while the group who had everything spent almost all their time coming up with ideas and hogging the supplies.
The ladies had their toenails painted and we took a stroll down the beach to check out some new buildings being designed by Earth Ship Cambodia. They are a permaculture organization that are putting the glass bottles and used tires found all over Cambodia to great use through the construction of self sustaining bungalows. We wrapped up our time on the beach with some fireworks and a talent show. Beautiful smiles and radiating enthusiasm, these kids foster a strong sentiment about the bright future of Cambodia.
The sun is shining and the skies are clear to say our farewells to Tiny Toones and one another. That’s right, independent travel time has begun! Mary and Nina are off to explore the less traveled islands of Cambodia. Corri is headed up north to Chiang Mai, Thailand to stand tall and explore on her own. Bethany is heading out on her own to explore peninsular Malaysia! Paige, Chelsea, Aaron, Jessie, and Kelsie are headed to southern islands to try out surfing in Phuket and relax on the beaches of southern Thailand.
Safe travels guys!! See you in Bangkok!!
Much love, Amanda and Samnang 2014 Southeast Asia: Cities & Sanctuaries Program Leaders.