The Quiet Truth

Jodine's fundraising journey

I first went to Cambodia in 2009 and fell in love. It was the first time I had ever gone overseas and it changed my perception in a way I never thought possible.

In 2009 I ate tarantulas and drank cheap beer. I visited the temples and rode in tuk tuks – oblivious to the harsh reality of Cambodia’s people. I didn’t see the man begging on the corner, and the young children selling books were simply fun to play with. I definitely never contemplated for a second the other ‘merchandise’ the young girls were selling.

Then one day I went to the Killing Fields. I learnt about the heartbreak and genocide that had become entrenched in this beautiful country. I learnt about the 1.7 million people who had been slain at the hand of a vicious dictator. I learnt about the silent suffering that this country had endured for the the last 40 years. And it changed my perception in a way I never thought possible.

I started to notice the quieter truth that slipped out from the cracks of the streets. I noticed the acid that stained the man’s face as he begged on the corner, I discovered that the children selling the books had been taught the basic plot line of each of the countless novels they sold to hide the illiteracy that embedded this generation. And most sadly, I learnt to question the future and longevity of the smiles on the faces of the young girls who laughed and chatted freely with us as we roamed the streets.

I returned to Siem Reap,  Cambodia, in December 2014. This time I did not want to be a tourist. This time I wanted to do something – anything – to help the beautiful people of this country. And this is how I found Feeding Dreams – a school set up to help supplement the meagre educational opportunities in Siem Reap. After working there for four weeks I got a clearer insight into the harsh reality of this society. But I was encouraged to know that there were dedicated people working hard to make a difference for these children.

Upon returning to Australia I wanted to continue supporting this grassroots NGO but was at a loss of how to do so. I had never fundraised before in my life and not knowing where to begin was off-putting for me. It was then that I got the phone call from my friends at Just Peoples.

Jodine's 54c birthday jelly

Jodine's 54c birthday jelly

Both Jo and Christey have always been passionate about helping people. Their empathetic natures and genuine care for the people of this world has been nothing short of inspirational. So when they invited me to fundraise for the school in Cambodia through their website I didn’t hesitate for a second. Their wealth of knowledge meant that I was able to relax in the security that they would be with me every step of the way. Every day during my fundraising period I was given advice and encouragement from the girls; giving me ideas about how to get my message out to people and raise both money and awareness for this amazing school.

Eating below the poverty line was my first and most successful fundraiser. This involved asking people to support me for living below the poverty line in Australia by eating less than $2 worth of food a day for 7 days - and the generosity of my friends and family during this time was unbelievable. I chose to complete my week of living on $2 a day over my birthday. Originally I was going to plan it so that it ended on my birthday but after careful consideration I thought that the kids in Cambodia don’t get to have a ‘day off’ from poverty when it’s their birthday so why should I? For my birthday I went all out with a 54c strawberry jelly –pretty satisfying after days of plain noodles and rice. 

Another thing I did to raise funds was committing to donate plasma once every two weeks, for every donation I received in a 48 hour period. It’s good to know I will be donating plasma for the next 12 fortnights! This idea of donating for a donation is another good way of raising not only money but also awareness for other causes. Plus I love the free milkshakes I get at every plasma donation!

My final approach – and the one that got me over the line – was donating myself. I had about 5 days to go and approximately $500 to raise and I decided it was time for me to put my money where my mouth was! I donated . As soon as I did this contributions started flowing in and within a few hours I had raised $150 more than the target. I really believe that this was an important step in highlighting how important this cause was for me and how much I believed in Feeding Dreams.

Overall, fundraising through Just Peoples was a superb experience and fundraising for the children at Feeding Dreams was personally one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my life. There is no better feeling than knowing that you are contributing positively in a world that can at times seem unjust and unfair – all we need is Just Peoples to keep doing what they can to pull down the walls of poverty and injustice one brick at a time.

I went to Cambodia for the first time in 2009. I will be going back again. The country and its beautiful children have changed my life in a way I never thought possible.

- Jodine Hardwicke

StoriesErin Stewart