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Leaving Something Better Than you Found It

October 8, 2011

When I was a boy scout we had many mottos and core principles which guided our actions.  One of those is “Leave a place better than you found it.”  In general, this is referring to camp sites or places where scouts go to camp or work, and when we leave, there should not only be no trace that we were there, but we should leave it better than we found it.

Many of my scout principles still guide me today.  So, when I had a friend contact me from an Australian computer company (Network Neighborhood) and asked me to arrange a trip with his senior managers I thought of this.  Millions of visitors come to Cambodia each year.  Most of them, however, make Cambodia a worse place than when they left.  They add more trash, many engage in bad vices while they are here, and they cause a lot of wear and tear on ancient monuments.  Sure they spend money, but someone else has to clean up after them all. . . millions of them!

Over the last year I have been helping to rehabilitate 3 schools in Poipet which face chronic flooding problems.  We raised the properties higher, put in concrete paths and entrances to the schools, painting some school buildings and provided draining for excess water.  They schools look great now, and are not flooded for the first time in years, but I still wanted to help fix up the front of the schools with a new coat of paint after years of neglect from flooding.

Now, normally, I would never take a team on a site seeing trip because I don’t have time for that kind of thing (so don’t get any ideas that I am running a tourist company), but I needed to paint a school so why not use these guys to paint?  They only had 12 hours of day light to paint, so I put them to work painting the fence of two schools.

Painting on the school fence

Painting the supports of the school sign. . . precariously!

After a few paint fights between staff (with highly toxic lead paint) and cleaning with some kind of acid skin burning thinner, they completed one entire fence and started on the second one.  The students and teachers of the school will finish the rest of the painting in the coming days.

Thanks Network Neighborhood for making Cambodia a little better than when you found it!

Well, almost. . . some mommy’s did have to spend quite a bit of time cleaning up their kids! :)

Little Cambodian kids with green hands

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