This article was written by Nathan Thebridge: Board Member, FTH Australia & New Zealand

In recent years Cambodia has often been described as a country of ‘beauty and darkness’, when you consider just for a moment its horrific past this description often appears accurate.

Photos from Cambodia Outreach 2000 – Feed The Hungry AustraliaDuring the Vietnam War and rule of the communist Khmer Rouge regime many of its innocent victims considered Cambodia ‘hell on earth!’ Although acutely aware of its past I encountered a Cambodia that was almost magical in and of itself…her beauty is reflected in its people; a people and culture that seemingly posses the intrinsic strength to survive, a stoic ability to move beyond its terrible past. And there in lies the mystery!

Photos from Cambodia Outreach 2000 – Feed The Hungry AustraliaIn early 2000 I traveled with a small group from the capital Phnom Penh and headed north east right up to Siem Reap near the ancient Angkor Wat and the Thailand border in a humanitarian relief effort distributing much needed rice to over 20,000 people. During my travels I can vividly recall the images of a terrible past, but was moved by the beauty of a nation determined to move forward despite their circumstances. Following a period of drought, and the bursting of the Mekong River due to floods many farmers witnessed the complete devastation of their rice fields and yet; displayed a resilience and strength beyond my comprehension. It seemed to me that they retained a resolve to rebuild what ever the adversity.

Photos from Cambodia Outreach 2000 – Feed The Hungry AustraliaI remember playing a game of ‘hide and go seek’ with some children, climbing piles of stored rice bags and chasing them around when it occurred to me that these children were completely conscious of their struggle, hungry and poor yet they still found time to play and have fun – this quickly highlighted my own tendencies to take completely for granted the blessings of my first world life.

Photos from Cambodia Outreach 2000 – Feed The Hungry AustraliaAs I write this brief note I recall faces in the crowd, smiles and joy for the gift of food and planting seed…a humility and grace that I have never forgotten. A trip like this has the ability to change a life, it certainly changed mine. Even today I continue to understand the lessons Cambodia taught me.

…History remembers its darkness, and I can never forget its beauty!