Former Murray Bridge High School student delivered a talk about sending her schoolies week volunteering in Cambodia

WINE TIME: Chloe Hutchesson and Rotary Tailem Bend member Sue Piggott receive gift of wine; with SIMB president Bronwyn Heard.
WINE TIME: Chloe Hutchesson and Rotary Tailem Bend member Sue Piggott receive gift of wine; with SIMB president Bronwyn Heard.

What a way to spend Schoolies Week! At a recent meeting of Soroptimist International Chloe Hutchesson told members how she had gone to Cambodia instead of Victor Harbor.  

She and her friends had spent their week teaching in a village school in New Hope, as well as being tourists.  They were shocked by the violent history of the country, saddened by the poverty of the people and amazed at their cheerfulness.

Although goods were cheap, families had no money left after they had bought food for the day.  Even the elderly performed heavy physical labour to support themselves and their grandchildren.  

The students travelled under the umbrella of the Tailem Bend Rotary Club, and two members, including Sue Piggott, who also spoke at this meeting, travelled with them. During the year each had to raise $4000 to cover expenses. Some took on a job after school; another ran a craft stall (and had some work left over to distribute among “their” children in Cambodia).

The overall feeling was that Cambodia is a beautiful country; that the people have survived unimaginable suffering under the previous regime with the destruction still obvious in places; and that all they met were helpful and polite.

They fell in love with the little children they taught, and were always caught by surprise to see the abject poverty in which they lived. How could they turn up for school looking so clean and tidy when they lived in such squalor? This was an unforgettable experience for these young people, to see people so poor but so happy and grateful for all they do have.

Soroptimist International Murray Bridge is involved with supporting such a village in Cambodia, and members were fascinated to hear about the situation from a different viewpoint. It is obvious that this is a cause the club will continue to support. Maybe this year we will provide a community toilet, or build a house for a destitute family.

Also present was Chris Plunkett, Region (State) President of Soroptimist International. Her concern is with homelessness and is looking for ways to address it. While we are aware of homeless youth, a surprise is the number of older women who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves without shelter.

Housing SA no longer has the resources to provide emergency housing and in 2017 900,000 South Australians were turned away when they sought emergency housing.

Members also discussed the wine to be bottled this winter, and an Open Garden early in September.