Archives for the month of: March, 2012

Well, well.
Another day, another life saved.
Well, not by me. I sit here and program, watch Twitter and occasionally post on Facebook.

I’m surprised at how much I’ve come to appreciate the Friends-International programs. As I’ve said all along, I’ve not come from a development background so it’s all been new to me.

I feel I can’t use that line any longer. I’ve been here since October 2010 (hopefully not a lifer!) and have a firm grasp on the development community and have begun streaming the live feed of the Khmer Rouge trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of  Cambodian. Next thing I’ll be photographed leading children onto a plane bound for Australia…

Anywho, this video is of a partnership program for the protection of children between those mentioned in the title. I’ve posted it because it includes my good mate Luke who is doing a fantastic job here at Friends. We’re all very lucky to work here, it’s a fantastic organisation. It really, really is. Kool aid anyone? It won’t hurt, you’ll just feel very, very sleepy. That’s it, let the darkness take you.

Oh, and keep your eye out for the first of the many Friends websites I’m project managing. Online very, very soon…

And while you’re at it, turn up your volume and check out the song to the right. I think I’m in love.

YouTube Preview Image

CASE 002 – Live stream

There are four defendants in Case 002:

  • Nuon Chea, aged 84, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea;
  • Ieng Sary, aged 85, former Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs;
  • Khieu Samphan, aged 79, former Head of State; and
  • Ieng Thirith, aged 78, former Minister of Social Affairs.

The four defendants were initially indicted and ordered to be sent for trial in a Closing Order issued by the Co-Investigating Judges on 15 September 2010. Following appeals from all four defendants, the Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed and partially amended the indictments and ordered the case to be sent for trial on 13 January 2011.

The defendants are indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and genocide.

The trial commenced with the start of the initial hearing on 27 June 2011. The opening statements in the trial commenced on 21 November 2011.

Bombs Over Cambodia 1965 – 1973
113,716 Sites
230,516 Sorties
2,756,941 Tons of Ordnance

After telling Kissinger that the US Air Force was being unimaginative, Nixon demanded more bombing, deeper into the country: “They have got to go in there and I mean really go in…I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?

The Walrus – Bombs Over Cambodia

Bombs Over Cambodia

Bombs Over Cambodia 1965 - 1973

I have crippling self doubt. It frequently prevents me from leading my life to its full potential.
It’s normal, right?

We wondered why we couldn’t get on top. We had a fairly intensive pre season, as far as expat pre seasons go, but Vietnam were all over us, hand balling back into space and resetting their attack.
It was only half way through the 3rd quarter our coach realised they were playing 18 a side instead of the agreed 16 (the ground was much too narrow for wings). Ahhhh, expat footy…

So we reset at zero a piece and played two 15 minute halves. The result? Well, we won comfortably by three goals.

Our first game on our new home ground, 80 fans, BBQ, beers, sun and our first trophy for the cabinet.

A fantastic day.

Victory call

The victory call is made.

Phnom Penh post match report

The Phnom Penh post match report.

The Cambodian Eagles

The Cambodian Eagles team that took on the Vietnam Swans.

Below is an article I wrote for the AYAD Exchange Magazine which was printed in the February-May 2012 issue.
I’ve really come full circle, haven’t I? From AYAD Communications Department headache to a scruffy poster boy, of sorts.

For those of you wondering why I’ve returned to Cambodia, I think this pretty much sums it up, in a nice, safe, edited way.


You are a very good person with good soul and I am very proud that you want to come to Cambodia to help build our country and help the young generation”.


I can think of at least one thing wrong with the above statement. I’m not really a good person – I like the band ‘Wings’ and the first album I ever purchased was ‘Sleeping with Past’ by Elton John (although it did include the foot tapping track Club at the End of the Street’). These are not the traits of a ‘good man’, in fact they are far from it.

When Phirun, a co-worker, softly spoke those very kind words late in my assignment my heart transformed into a black hole sucking every good natured gesture and warm humbling experience into its pit. I was genuinely afraid it would expand, heave and under the enormous strain, explode leaving poor Phirun dripping with entrails.

This was not something I expected to feel in Cambodia. It’s not something I expected as I applied for the AYAD program, resigned from my job and definitely not something I expected as I hopped on a plane to settle into my new sticky Cambodian life.

As it turns out I was to experience many of these black hole moments during my AYAD assignment and I solely blame Friends-International, my host organisation.

How dare they?
How dare they do such incredible work?
How dare they employee such wonderful people?
How dare they encourage me to leave my desk and experience, first hand, the hardships and joys of Cambodian life?
I find it very selfish on their behalf, almost disgusting.

Thanks to Friends-International I became so much more than a web developer (I gained a tan for a start, which in itself is unusual). I was actively encouraged to travel with the outreach teams to view and experience the work performed in the field.

Travelling with the outreach teams allowed someone like me, who would predominately be seated behind a desk, to experience life ‘on the ground’. Not only did it give me an appreciation of my work and the people it would ultimately have an effect on but it also opened my eyes to the daily struggles of many Khmer families and children.

Several times upon my brief return back to oz my friends would rib me and say things such as “Oh yeah, Al just went over and saved the world via Twitter” (usually in front of a very attractive young women) to which I could only sit and smile. There is no way I could express to them or my family the journey I’ve been on.

How could I possibly describe the feeling of sitting in a displaced community speaking with a mother who had recently lost her first born? The pure happiness of watching 12 children shampooing their hair in a sun drenched alley laughing and playfully teasing each other? Or the sadness of watching young children injecting drugs moments after being given clean syringes?

It was during these outreach trips and visits to the Friends-International vocational training centre, Mith Samlanh (‘Friends’ in Khmer), where I really fell in love with this place. I fell in love with the warm orange blanket sunsets, unstoppable energy of the children – all of them, the wave of incessant smiles, the god awful sewer smells and of course, the work of Friends.

With each visit to Mith Samlanh and journey with the outreach teams I learnt more about Friends programs. I travelled with the drug, migration and education teams. I learnt about home based production and vocational training. Sitting and speaking with children and parents directly affected I heard incredible stories of heartache but also beaming stories of amazing resilience and achievement.

Working in Cambodia with an organisation that has such a positive impact on the lives of so many gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction that is just so damn addictive. Each day I arrive at the office in the knowledge that my work, no matter how small a task, will have some impact on the organisation which will eventually filter into the programs helping the marginalised children and families of Cambodia.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That’s why we applied for our AYAD positions. I don’t really want to use the AYAD slogan ‘Making a Difference’ but that’s what we all really hoped to achieve. Go on, admit it.

Travelling to Cambodia with no previous non-government organisation (NGO) or aid experience I had no idea what I was walking into. Who would’ve thought the self loathing hipster from Melbourne would be in Cambodia post assignment continuing his work with Friends minus the skinny black jeans and checked shirt?

There is an infamous quote by Joseph Mussomeli who was the US Ambassador to Cambodia, “Be careful because Cambodia is the most dangerous place you will ever visit. You will fall in love with it, and eventually it will break your heart.

Fortunately my heart is still in tact save for the frequent black hole episodes that see me twitch and convulse like a man riddled with heat rash.

I have fallen in love with Cambodia although it frequently breaks my heart. There are good breaks and bad breaks. The bad breaks are the moments you can’t explain or express until you’ve lived them… come to think of it the good breaks are moments you can’t explain or express until you’ve lived them either.

Fortunately I’ve suffered proportionate breaks of the good and the bad. Just when I think my heart can’t take anymore, people like Phirun approach my desk and inadvertently softly remind me not to be such a spoilt jerk.

Careful, I can feel another black hole moment coming on…

Allan has returned to Cambodia to work with Friends-International as an Australian Volunteer for International Development.

Friends-International communication team

The Friends-International Communication, Design and IT team. Young Phirun bottom right in a spiffy new shirt.

Friends-International’s James Sutherland, my Cambodian father and radio star.
Radio spot about Volunteer Tourism broadcast on Triple J’s Hottest 100 earlier this year.

Child Rights, Social Work, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Communication… Phew.

Friends-International Training

Me and Karona collecting items for a training challenge

Friends-International Training

Breakout group. Next to my good mates Luke and Guy (scribing).