One year ago today, I left Cambodia after living there for five years, three months and five days.

Human and Hope Association has continued to thrive since my departure. After I left, I was able to concentrate on fundraising, and we were able to raise the staff’s wages significantly. This has resulted in a much better quality of living for them all, with some even pursuing master’s degrees at their own cost.  The team remains focused on the outcomes of their projects and have reached some major milestones since my departure; 33% of their income earned in 2017 was through self-generated methods, 90% of students in the English program passed their exams, and all three staff members studying on university scholarships were recognised as top students in their classes. They continue to research and initiate new projects, including parenting workshops, a sewing cooperative and health workshops. With all of these factors, they have gained the respect of the local community who play their part by donating resources where they can and working in cooperation with the team. I couldn’t be prouder.

As for Seyla and I, I am not going to lie; settling back into Australia was tough. We arrived with just four hundred dollars to our names, but thankfully we have a supportive family who let us live with them. I dealt with reverse culture shock, whilst Seyla had to get used to a new culture entirely. I had lost contact with many of my friends when I lived in Cambodia, but those who remained supported us through this tough transition. It took me months to find a job, but I am happy to say I am now continuing to empower others through my full-time job at a not-for-profit in Sydney. I continue to dedicate my spare time to Human and Hope Association through our fundraising board, and Seyla and I spend our weekends at markets selling their handicraft range.

Even when times are tough, I don’t give up. I keep persevering and will do whatever I can for the cause. That is because I know what a difference each and every dollar makes to the passionate, hard-working, capable team who are running the organisation in Cambodia. I do it because I truly believe in the work that the team is doing, and I know that many of the people we work with will move out of poverty as a direct result of our projects and their determination.

To celebrate Human and Hope Association’s independence, please consider making a donation.