“An incredible place!”

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A former Aboyne Academy pupil is almost halfway through her voluntary year in Cambodia.

April Goodwin raised nearly £5000 last year through fundraising, which allowed her to travel to the Asian country.

The 18-year-old was initially going out to teach English to a wide-range of students at a college in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh but that did not work out. April spoke to the Piper about what her experience in Cambodia has been like so far.

She said: “Although things haven’t quite gone they way they should, I am now having a fantastic time at a brand new project. Life over the last few months has been challenging both emotionally and physically but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

“The first three months were extremely tough, as we were not qualified for what was needed and they did not need what my project partner and I could provide. But we also had good experiences – trips to Pagoda’s (Buddhist temples), a Khmer wedding, teaching at a local orphanage one evening a week and trying out traditional Khmer dancing.”

At the start of January, April moved on to Honour Village Cambodia (HVC) which is a family home for 32 children and she explained what her average day now consists of.

“Honour Village is an incredible place, my project partner and I couldn’t be happier! It is a family home for 32 wonderful children with 10 excellent Khmer staff and regular day volunteers joining us too, we have our hands more than full – rising at 5.30am for the daily school cycle run and falling into bed by 8pm after a non-stop mad days work.

“We have rice morning, noon and night – and we still love it! Bucket showers and an outside kitchen, washing bowl and well pump, this way of life is certainly different.”

The quality of health is rising in the country, with an average life expectancy of 62 years, a large improvement of around ten years when the average life expectancy in Cambodia was only 48 years. Despite this rise, many Cambodians still live in poverty and diseases such as HIV and Aids are a serious threat.

April admits some experiences she has witnessed have been heartbreaking.

She said: “My eyes are being opened to a whole new life, and the reality for so many Cambodians. Last week, I went to help collect four children from their rural village. They were a close-loving family, but their mother had died, and with hardly any money they had lost their home and could not feed everyone. I sat with them for several hours as papers were completed, to approve the Father’s 4 children coming into our care.

“They made a lovely family, but with no house and no money for food, how could they survive? Imagine having to give away your beloved children, through no fault of your own – from being born into poverty.

“It is so hard to get out of the cycle of poverty here, but HVC is helping; they are giving these children a chance for a brighter future. It is literally a fight to stay alive,”

As part of her fundraising last year, April ran, cycled and swam the equivalent distance of 730km from North-east to South-west Cambodia. She wanted to let everyone know how grateful she is and how much it is making a difference to the Cambodian people.

“My partner and I both feel like we can really be of use at HVC, in fact, our first day here allowed 6 members of staff their first day off since HVC opened to children 6 weeks before! And now we all have a regular day off a week, which is so important as the staff work so hard!

“I would like to ask the people at home for their help once more. In June, my parents are visiting me here in Cambodia. With them, they will hopefully be able to bring 5 suitcases jam-packed of things for the children here. But we need to fill them!

“With limited funding, it is hard to find money for all the things girls and boys should enjoy. Hopefully this will be a chance to keep our wonderful kids grinning and occupied.

“Jigsaws, games, toys, crafts, and clothes. Anything that 3 to 15 year-old boys and girls can enjoy with very little English but lots of enthusiasm, energy and a great willingness to learn.

““I would like to thank you all for giving me the chance to volunteer here in Cambodia. Without your support I could not have made it! I miss the beautiful Deeside, and keep you in my thoughts, always.”

If you are able to donate something for April’s parents to bring out Cambodia, contact them at home on 01339 886556. Visit the HVC website at www.honourvillagecambodia.org.