Mum Laura Pauley, 33, took her five-year-old daughter backpacking around Southeast Asia. Now she’s written a book about their adventures including a visit to CCF and we have exclusive excerpts
Watching her previously shy daughter, Summer, growing in confidence as she interacted with some CCF students, Laura Pauley knew that everything had been worth it.
Her decision to take the five-year-old backpacking around Southeast Asia might have seemed a daunting challenge. But the single mother was determined to introduce her young daughter to new cultures and countries away from their orderly and comfortable life in the U.K.
Laura, now a happily married mum of three, celebrates the release of ”My Asian Summer: Backpacking Asia with a Five Year Old’ this Saturday. Laura explains how seeing her daughter, now nine years old, blossom mixing with other children at CCF during their experience in Cambodia, validated her decision.
“Unlike the other schools we had visited, CCF didn’t receive a box of gifts from us. I was previously told that the school had over 2,000 students and that it wouldn’t be fair to provide presents to only a small proportion of children.
Knowing that I would feel awkward about turning up at the school empty-handed and with no fixed purpose, I chose to bring some personalised stickers that proudly declared: ‘I met summer from England.’
On presenting the stickers, Summer had a totally mesmerised, captive audience.
My daughter really was a child of contradictions. One minute she was imitating the role of timid-mouse, and the next she was proudly playing the character of the much-loved leader.
Watching on like a spy, I inwardly smiled as I witnessed her confidently hand out stickers to rows of eager children.
It was crazy what newfound confidence the stickers gave her considering she was hiding behind me only minutes before.”
Laura’s intentions for her backpacking trip were not to just spend time relaxing on a beach, but to get a true feel for the countries she visited and to expose her daughter, Summer, to new experiences that would open her mind.
“To really understand the essence of Cambodia, you need to see the real country that is hidden beyond the depths of tourism…
The glossy mall that we visited the other day covers up the truth behind Cambodia’s forgotten people. I didn’t scrimp and save for three years and fly halfway around the world to lie on a beach! I came to learn and open Summer’s eyes to the real world, so that when we return home we can make small gestures to try and make a difference ourselves. I admit, I’m not entirely sure how i will do this yet…But I will. Whether that is simply by educating Summer and her classmates, holding some fundraising activities myself, or even sponsoring a child! But somehow I want to make a difference.”
Cambodian Children’s Fund provided Laura and Summer with an insight into how some of the most impoverished communities in Cambodia live. Witnessing the living conditions in Steung Meanchey, an area that was formerly home to one of the largest landfill sites in Southeast Asia, can be a confronting experience. But for Laura and Summer, seeing the positive impact CCF has on the community left them with feelings of hope and inspiration.
“Waving goodbye to our former guide, we were left with Chea, our new 13-year old host.
Chea informed us that he lived at the house (a CCF residential home) for six years. Climbing the staircase to the first floor, he proudly pointed out his certificates which occupied a considerable amount of space on the wall. This made me feel empowered. Even though this was indeed a residential home and not a cosy, traditional ‘family’ environment, the walls housed the achievements of the students in much the same way that one would expect to find in family stairwells across much of the world.
Scanning one of the certificates, I read that Chea has been crowned ‘Pupil of the Year’ alongside another harmonious student.
‘Wow – you are a master in karate?’ I asked the young boy with a cheeky but reassuring smile dressed across my face.
‘Yes my sponsor pays for it!’
I had read about sponsoring a child on CCF’s website before arriving, however, throughout the day ‘sponsoring’ hadn’t even been mentioned… Undoubtedly, CCF was trying to make a lasting impression on us, but so they should- given the remarkable humanitarian efforts they were painstakingly executing each day.
Unsurprisingly, I now had a huge soft-spot for the charity; feeling somewhat inspired but not pressured.”
If you have been captivated by Laura’s story, you can read more about her journey in, ‘My Asian Summer: Backpacking Asia with a Five Year Old’. On the 15th of September there will be a book launch at Lavant Memorial Hall in Chichester, West Sussex, England. If you are in the area, stop by and show your support for Laura and CCF.
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