IN March six members from Christchurch, Ilkley, went to Cambodia with the charity Mission Direct where they volunteered for two weeks on building projects.

And later this month the group - Lynda Duttine, Diana Feather, Chris Knamiller, Bridget Pitcairn and Philip and Lynnda Smith - will be telling the story of their experience. Join them on Thursday September 19, at Christchurch, Ilkley, in the cafe, starting 7.30pm.

Bridget Pitcairn said: “For each of us who went to Cambodia, it was quite a culture shock. We have an expectation that everyone has a home, and access to health care and education. But in Cambodia this is not the case. Not all homes have electricity. For those that do, the power is cut off between midday to 6pm, as the country does not have enough power resource. Many public buildings have to have their own generators.

“Our first impression of Cambodia was the noise, smell, and heat. The roads are packed with motor bikes, bicycles or tuk-tuks. The sound of bike horns fills the street. The smell of petrol fumes, mixes with that of stagnant water from the river, and the aroma of food cooking on open fires is mixed with the smell of smoke. It’s hot and humid; working at temperatures of 35C at 9am made it essential for lots of breaks for a drink of water and rest in the shade. All of this made a strong impression on our senses.

“But overall, the greatest impressions were from the kind people we met. We learned so much about the Khmer people, their history and their hope for a better future.

“We worked on a home building project, near the capital Phnom Penh, to stop homes from flooding during the rainy season. The school project was to create a new school building in time for the start of the school year in September. This would allow another 30 children to start school, and have an education.

“Thank you to everyone who donated money to Mission Direct before we left, as this paid for the bricks, cement, and skilled staff who guide the projects and who ensure the buildings are completed after the volunteers have left. Some of the donated money was given to a school called Light of Hope, who needed a pump for the well, to get water to the school, the kitchen and the toilets. Some money was also given to children who needed school bags. A fire in their village, called Old Dump Village, burned many homes, and these families had lost everything. The reason for the fire? The old dump was smouldering in the heat and then flames spread into the village.

“The new school bags were filled with gifts given to the team to take to Cambodia, such as paper, pens, toothbrush, toothpaste, and shampoo. Thank you for these gifts. They made a difference. Thank you also to those in Ilkley who helped raise money for Mission Direct with donations for a raffle.

“Gifts were donated from Ilkley Cinema, Majestic Wines, Tyler-James Pet Shop, and Ben Rawson of Secret Truffles, chocolatier at the Ilkley Real Food Market. Your donations made a difference.

“At the end of our two weeks’ work in Cambodia, we knew that we had made a small difference to the lives and education of a few people. We went with the aim of giving aid and support. In reality, by sharing their lives with us, they gave us much more. The people we met made a long-lasting impression on us, and we came home as different people because of them.”

For more information about Mission Direct visit www.