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January 2011

Pre-Flight Ramblings II (Bob Carver)

It is January 23rd here in Ottawa and -23 degrees celcius. As now seems to be the norm, this year's build team is scattered around the World. Quite a change from our first stab at house-building where 7 team members, all from the Ottawa area, met up in Phnom Penh.

Four years, 50 houses, and nearly 300 happy Cambodians later seventeen of us will rally in Phnom Penh later this week. Dr. Paula Piilonen and Allan Ashton are back to build with us again.  They are already soaking up the warmth in Southeast Asia. Once again Dr. Paula has attracted students and grads of the UofO Geology program; Tash, Nicole and Teresa are currently somewhere in Vietnam or Cambodia.

When we set our goal of houses for this year's build, we thought it might remain at just that, however, we not only met our goal, but surpassed it setting two records in the process; biggest build team at 17, and most houses built. And, like last year we will have some extra dollars left over as our dollars raised totaled $35,600.00!

It is always a bit of a crap shoot. We need a certain number of builders to be able to complete x number of houses, and we need x number of dollars. Each year we are getting a bit bigger, and so far all our builds have come off without a hitch.

This is of course due to the fact that we have developed a dedicated core of return builders, that is small (Wendy, Paula, yours truly) but always seem to share their enthusiasm and passion. It is also due to our friends and supporters, who over the years have donated to the cause, attended our events and told their friends, slowly widening the circle of 'friends of Tabitha'.

Earlier this year we dropped by the Lush store in the Byward Market. Believe it or not Wendy and I travel for our 4 week total time in Asia with carry-on baggage! Not one of these jam up the overhead bin monsters either. Due to the new airline security regulations packed liquids are a bit of an issue, so we went down to the Lush store to pick up some solid shampoos etc.

Not only did we get some very funky items for the trip, we also saw that Lush is a company that 'gives back'. Their charity pot program has supported a variety of projects around the World. Wendy thought we should send in an application to see if we qualified for this initiative. Paula took the lead on getting the online application in and, in early September, we learned that Lush had donated $10,100 USD to this year's build! Needless to say we were ecstatic, but the good news didn't stop there. The CEO of North American operations, Mark, along with his wife Karen, also decided to send employees on the build with us, again courtesy of Lush.

Thanks doesn't quite cut it.

Karen and her daughter Chloe from Vancouver headquarters, Carrie from Lush Chicago, Rose Marie from Lush Toronto, and Anitra from Lush Ottawa will provide very welcome additions to this year's build.

Mark, an RCMP work colleague is currently exploring  Angkor Wat, other builders will be headed to sunnier climes over the next couple of days, with our team orientation with Janne happening in PP on Saturday Jan. 29th.

After the build, which goes by too quickly, our new friends, and now seasoned builders, will head their separate ways. This year a few of us are going to cycle from Battambang to the Thai border, overnighting in Pailin, the town that became the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge.

Those of us who have built before are excited to get back to Asia; the sights, sounds, smells, people. We are especially excited about seeing our friends who run the operations in Cambodia; Janne and her daughters Miriam and Tuit. The staff who have come with us on our previous builds; Srei, Vonn and Vatai. And the villagers who have earned their house. Their smiling faces provide memories that last a life-time.

Wendy, Paula and Bob (the builder)