Today is my 35th birthday and I have a story to tell you.

Today is my 35th birthday. This time last year, in the middle of the horrific bushfire season, I asked you to donate what you could to my birthday fundraiser. It was a tough ask with all the focus on bushfire relief efforts. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of what would be a frightful year for the world, not to mention our fundraising efforts.

Yet, Human and Hope got through it. COVID-19 didn’t spread in Cambodia like it did in other countries, but the economic ramifications were extreme. Hundreds of thousands of people who were already teetering just above the poverty line lost their jobs. Schools closed, with so many unable to access online learning. Countless families began experiencing severe food insecurity.

We went into crisis mode, and thanks to many sleepless nights, endless hours worked and learning just what it means to ‘pivot, pivoooot’, we were able to financially support HHA Cambodia to conduct hygiene outreach with soap and mask distribution to over 26,000 people, provide over 800 emergency food packs to families doing it tough and train more than 250 families in agriculture so they could establish their own home food gardens.

The team at HHA Cambodia all took a 20% pay cut to keep their jobs, due to the state of the economy and because their main source of self-generated revenue, product sales, vanished with the closure of Siem Reap businesses. This was happening whilst many of the staff suddenly became breadwinners, with so many of their family members being stood down from employment. There were no Job Seeker payments, yet they still had to find a way to pay back their loans, feed their families and just survive.

I have spent the last eight months with ‘survivor’s guilt’. Thanks to the Job Keeper payment that myself and so many of my charity friends have received, I didn’t need to take a pay cut. Yet my hard working colleagues, who always put the needs of their community first, have been struggling.

That’s why for my 35th birthday I am raising funds to send to HHA Cambodia so they can spend it any way they please. Unrestricted funding is so important, yet often hard to come by in the not-for-profit sector. Whether it be putting their salaries back to pre-COVID amounts, buying paper for their class handouts, paying the electricity bill or helping a family establish a farm; anything that the team at HHA Cambodia spend the funds on will be worth it. Because they are best placed to solve the needs of their community, and know where your dollars are needed.

My goal is to raise $2,000 today to support important local community development. Your support means the world to me, and to a community in Cambodia that are determined to move themselves out of poverty.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to my birthday fundraiser through GiveNow.

Here’s to a great 2021.