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Final day for Unsung Hero in Cambodia

Do you think you could live on just a dollar a day? This is the reality that faced iiNet Compliance Manager Rebecca Moonen who spent the week in Cambodia – ten years of charity work in various institutions earned her the title of iiNet’s Unsung Hero, and the opportunity to travel with 12 players from the West Coast Eagles to build houses for the Tabitha Foundation.

iiNet climbed on board the cause with $20,000 to cover materials which would soon be transformed into 20 houses for the poverty-stricken community. This is her story…

Day four: towards the end of our final day of building we have a full complement of staff finishing off the houses – even the press is put to work with hammer and nails. It seems that the worst timber was left for the last house and an uneven plank overlaps the one beside it, causing a buckle in the floor.

Thinking that I’d personally find tripping over the floor every day for the rest of my life eternally frustrating, I find an axe and start chipping away until both planks lay flat next to each other. ‘A woman’s touch’ I smugly think to myself as I join the boys in the lunch line.

Once the houses are complete, we line up facing the families for the handover ceremony to present a housewarming rug (embroidered by Tabitha) for the families to lay on their floors. We’re told, however, the rugs would be revered and hung proudly on the walls instead. I step forward to present my rug to the family and the mother hugs me, announcingto the group in Khmer that I am her sister. I’m grateful for my dark glasses as my eyes well up, realising the hard work we’ve done means so much to the people that have so little.

Back on the bus, we share stories of the final day and I head out for a well deserved cocktail (or four) with the group. Far from being the party night that we anticipated, I’m back at the hotel and in bed by 8:30pm. Rock on ‘Nana Beck’, rock on.

The next morning I head to the Russian markets and immediately understand why we’ve been pretty meticulous with our food choices. Exposed meat sits on the grubby floor, covered in flies, and waiting for sale. Chicken heads form a row of lunch delicacies, and despite my adventurous eating habits, I see some things hanging from the roof that defy classification. Pictures of pick-pockets line the walls in a “name and shame” exhibition, and I suspiciously eye those around me and keep a tighter grasp on my handbag.

Arriving back at the hotel early for our bus to the airport, I find the team has left without me. Cue the Benny Hill music with an erratic cab driver in peak hour traffic, I was less than impressed with the profuse apologies from the boys when I arrived, solo and forgotten, at the airport. You wouldn’t get this kind of shoddy service from the Dockers I thought (but kept to myself).

Back to reality and I clean out the fruit and veges from my fridge and feel terrible when I think of the kids in the village who queued up for our uneaten bread rolls each day. I evaluate my waste levels and vow to cut back on the amount of food that ends up in my bin each week. It’s a small thing, but it’s a start in my realisation that my amazing blessed life is a vessel for spreading some of that love to others.

So when Mum asks me for Christmas present ideas, I just might ask for a well to provide clean drinking water to the families in the village. I have enough “stuff” (and I’ll bet you do too.) Don’t get me wrong – I’m not about to stop shaving my armpits, wear cheesecloth, and live on locally grown carrot sticks… but I’ve realised helping the community isn’t just for people like Angelina Jolie. Even the smallest things can make such a big difference.

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