Happy Days In CAMBODIA
Although being a former New South Wales cricketer and Northern Beaches household name of 38 years for his chain of sports stores, Mike Pawley and wife Suzanne's hearts are in Cambodia.
The Pawley's make at least three trips on a yearly basis to Trach Village, where Happy Days Cambodian Village School Inc spreads its love.
The charity provides a helping hand to impoverished children who strive to finish their education, despite challenging circumstances.
"In 2011, my family and I had a life-changing experience when visiting Cambodia," Mike tells Peninsula Living. "It was an incredibly moving experience and at aged 68 I instantly knew I wanted to use my remaining years to provide aid to this wonderful country." The trip sparked a return visit in 2012, when the family visited Srey Vibol Ke School, 30kms from Siem Reap, which held more than 200 students and was in a poor state.
“The sanitation facilities were inadequate, with only two aquat toilets toaccommodate the students and seven teaching staff,” recalls Mike. "The well was dry and the water pump was in a state of disrepair, teaching aids were scarce and sporting equipment was non-existent. We were overwhelmed by what we saw."
Whilst the Pawley's were able to Present each student with a new uniform, stationery and sporting gear, they came away feeling much more could be done.
Since the charity's inception, the school has grown to 420 students, a figure Mike deemed unusual considering loss than 50 per cent of kids attend school in Cambodia.
This charity has no running costs he explains. "Every cent we're given finishes up within the school and village community. A little money can do so much to change opportunities for kids who deserve the same chance in life as ours."
Happy Days Cambodian Village School Inc runs a daily Feeding Programme for more than 120 children, after discovering 98 per cent were going to school without breakfast. It also provides English classes every day, as well as traditional music classes and soccer coaching.
“Learning traditional music is so important' explains Suzanne. “During the Pot Pot regime, artisans were murdered and Cambodia lost the teachers of its cultural heritage. The younger generations have missed out.”
The opportunities available to students sponsored by the charity are Ilfe-alterIng; four females recently represented Siem Reap in the national soccer league, and scholarship student Hoeurn Hon became the Cambodian National Girls Shot-Put Champion.
“We met Hon on the side of the road 18 months ago,” explains Suzanne. “She told us she had to leave school as her parents couldn't afford her studies anymore, so we offered her a scholarship.
“If she'd left, she would never have known her full potential when it comes to her sporting prowess. She also now has the opportunity for further education.”
Suzanne recently taught students how to crotchet, and the girls now teach these skills to others. “This is when it gets really exciting,” adds Suzanne. “When you provide the seeds and they grow the forest, it may be the start of a cottage industry, providing income.”