Aug 23, 2019, 06:00 AM
Most Australians visiting Cambodia have their sights set on the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat, with a possible side-trip to an elephant sanctuary or a beach on the Gulf of Thailand.
Not many would plan to spend their holiday in a school surrounded by 1,000 rambunctious children.
But 10 days in the loud and lively surrounds of the Feeding Dreams Community School in Siem Reap has long been the perfect holiday for Rod Duckworth, a Citywide veteran who supervises our street sweeping teams in Glen Eira and Bayside.
Rod has been coming to Feeding Dreams since 2013, when as a tourist he was taken to the school and met its dynamic Brisbane-born founder, Kerry Huntly.
“Not having any kids of my own, I was always on the lookout for something with a bit of meaning, some way of helping people out,” says Rod.
After teaching a bit of English, Rod found his real meaning in 2014, when Feeding Dreams moved to a larger site – and he was able to fund the building of a new classroom.
“We desperately needed eight purpose-built classrooms and Rod stepped up straight away to provide funds,” says Kerry.
“Rod’s classroom enables about 100 children to receive a free holistic education every day – which has equated to thousands over the past five years.”
Every time he visits Feeding Dreams, Rod also helps with a specific building project: concreting a walkway, thatching roofs, building a kitchen garden. “The school gives free meals to 600 children each day, so they really need their vegetables!” he laughs.
Connections that last
As well as helping with building projects, Rod buys stationery and textbooks for the school, and funds each of the projects he works on.
But his favourite thing is to take the staff out for lunch – which has become a regular fixture of his September visits.
“I’ve got to know several of the teachers pretty well, and they’re great people,” he says. “It always feels right to be saying thanks to the people doing all the hard work.”
Today, Feeding Dreams has eight classrooms, a computer room, a respected soccer academy, and a hospitality centre that provides training to students who aspire to a career in tourism. The school also has a busy volunteer program that attracts individuals and school groups from around the world.
But few are as dedicated as Rod, who visits the school every year without fail. “I’d rather see where my money’s going than just keep putting a cheque in the post,” he says. “Although right now, I am considering sponsoring one of the students – just to help them with their uniform and books and other expenses.”
Kerry Huntly has no doubt that Rod and her other “regulars” are effecting genuine change in the lives of thousands of Cambodian families.
“Rod does so much to support the school every time he visits,” she says. “It’s heartfelt people like Rod who are enabling us to change the lives of thousands of impoverished children.”
For more information about Feeding Dreams, see: https://feedingdreamscambodia.org/
Photo: Rod helping out thatching a roof at the Feeding Dreams School in Siem Reap.
Simon Mossman - Group Corporate Communications
M 0427 307 216