The distance from Siem Reap to Sydney, Australia, is 7,252 km. The flight takes more than 13 hours, but if someone could somehow walk the entire distance and traverse the oceans on foot it would amount to around 9,572,640 steps and you’d need to take about 319,000 steps per day to make it in one month.
The Walk to Cambodia is an annual fitness challenge where participants are encouraged to collectively walk a distance equal to the distance from Australia to Cambodia.
“We do that by tracking our steps every day in April, and along the way we collect fun badges with info about the different landmarks and cities we have walked to in Cambodia,” said Sally Hetherington, the CEO of Human and Hope.
Sally, the founder of Human and Hope Australia who prefers to go by her first name, told The Post that “we also host community walks across Australia that anyone can join.”
The walk to Cambodia is of course virtual so people can walk from anywhere to anywhere or even just around in circles if they’d like as long as they meet the required number of steps taken. The ease with which people are able to join the event has allowed it to quickly grow year on year.
“You walk where possible. So far, we have walked the distance from Australia to Cambodia and back to Australia and back to Cambodia,” Sally said.
“We have participants from more than 10 countries, including the staff at HHA Cambodia,” said Sally, who moved to Cambodia 10 years ago to work as a volunteer coordinator at a school for disadvantaged children.
Those who joined the event were given their own login through the walktocambodia.org website to log their steps each day.
The event for April 2021 is now finished, but it will be back next April and they plan on making it bigger than ever. If you’d like to reminders about the event or updates on its progress follow it on social media: @walktocambodia on Facebook and Instagram.
You can also get support from the organisation to host your own Walk to Cambodia at any time of the year to raise funds to support HHA.
“The campaign runs from April 1-30 each year and we are still collecting funds into May,” Sally said.
All participants have their own fundraising pages, whether it is an individual or a team, and they can encourage their friends and families to donate.
The Walk to Cambodia was launched in 2019 as an initiative of Human and Hope Australia to raise funds for the Human and Hope Association (HHA) in Cambodia.
“We raise funds to support the Siem Reap-based NGO HHA so that their local staff can run their projects because we believe that local staff are the people best placed to solve the issues in their community,” she says.
She said that this was the third year that Walk to Cambodia had been held and that it was a great way of getting people involved with a good cause and have fun in a way that they also benefited from.
More than $20,000 was raised by this year’s event and all funds will be sent to HHA to support their education programs.
“What’s really impactful is that for every $120 raised, we can support a child living in poverty in rural Cambodia to receive a year of education,” said Sally.
This means that 166 children are going to get an education for an entire year, according to Walk to Cambodia.
“There are 84 students who still need support, so we are trying to raise funds to support them before our fundraising pages are closed on May 9,” Sally says.
Sally built a community centre, Human and Hope Association, with a local team in four years after beginning work in Cambodia as a volunteer in 2011 when she was 25 years old.
Now the association is run entirely by local people and Sally herself was successfully made redundant in 2016. She now focuses on raising funds to empower communities through education, community development and vocational training.
“I now lead Human and Hope Association Inc, raising crucial funds in Australia so we can empower communities to reduce inequalities. who since 2012 has driven initiatives to raise more than $500k to support communities in Cambodia.
“I am passionate about raising awareness about the unintended consequences of voluntourism,” said Sally.
Voluntourism seems like a fine idea on the surface, she explains, but in many countries it is encouraging the creation of orphanages in order to give the tourists places to volunteer at with appealing photo-ops with the cute kids.
Sally continues explaining that the voluntourists mean well, just like a person who gives a child-beggar money means well, but both actions end up hurting the child more than helping because there are adults behind the scenes who are profiting from the existence of these orphanages and collecting money from the child-beggars, who are kept out of school to work on the streets.
Thai San, Managing Director of HHA who has worked with Sally for more than five years, said that she is one of the greatest people he’s ever met and someone who is passionate about helping and empowering the Cambodian people.
“She also inspired us; our staff are empowered and understand the value of helping their community,” said San.
“Although she left Cambodia in 2016, she is still doing a great job and working hard to support us through Human and Hope Australia doing fundraising,” San says.
HHA provides English and Khmer language-based classes that include facilities with a preschool and a library to over 250 students.
Recently more than 100 students from Siem Reap’s Sabour commune whose families ares living in poverty received scholarships to study with HHA.
Right now HHA is rolling out programs in place to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, particularly to help those in need during the lockdown.
Students who have Internet access are being taught through online classes, but due to some staff living in locked down areas where they can’t borrow books to students, they keep in touch with those students via telephone.
“HHA has a range of programmes that support whole families and in response to Covid-19 they initiated tuk-tuk hygiene outreach for distribution of World Health Organization information, face masks and hand soap.
“They also distributed emergency food packs to over 1,100 families and have provided training and resources for 300 families to establish their own home food gardens,” Sally says.
The centre also provides vocational training with social distancing through sewing classes for adults, which resumed at the end of last month.
There are only six students in each class which allows everyone to maintain social distance by moving apart from each other and keeping their face masks on, according to HHA.
“It is crucial that this lifechanging vocational training continues, as the program impacts not only on these women’s ability to provide for their families, but also their knowledge of hygiene, nutrition and health, their status in their home and community, and even impacts their housing,” said San.
Those who want to support the Walk to Cambodia and Human and Hope Association (HHA) can send their donations to ABA account: HUMAN AND HOPE ASSOCIATION / 000939632.