Overwhelmed with kindness

Library project charity

They say kindness inspires kindness. I have been fortunate enough not only to have experienced the factual accuracy of this saying but also to see the happiness which these kind acts inspire too. In fact, many recent acts of kindness have made me myself a very happy person.

Actually, I’m always happy but December and early January resulted in a particularly joyous Ruth. I returned to England for a month to complete some fundraising on behalf of my own charity for the construction of a library in Cambodia. I had arranged to meet with three different Rotary Clubs in my local area after having repeatedly noted their involvement in other charitable projects in Cambodia and the wider world. This is where the kindness began – they invited me to join their clubs for lunch and offered me the opportunity to speak a little bit about what I do and what my charity does.

Two of the Rotaries had already offered to organise a book drive, collecting English language books for the library from their members to be given to me the day I met them. This might not seem like much; collecting for children in a far off land book which are no longer used or enjoyed in England, but it is invaluable to SKOPE. Not only are good quality English language books hard to come by in Cambodia but they are also expensive. SKOPE cannot afford to spend much money on these books and thanks to the generosity of Rotary members, we don’t have to. I inventoried over 540 book titles, littering the living room floor with piles and piles of second-hand reading material. I was completely bowled over by the support I received and my heart swelled both with the knowledge that so many people had rallied behind my cause as well as happiness in anticipation of the next stage.

And then I started to think about the next stage. In case you’re unaware, England and Cambodia are rather far apart and books are incredibly heavy. A few people at the Rotaries and within my own family had enquired into my plans for returning the books to Cambodia where they were destined to find their new home. Now, I’ve always been an optimistic person but most people scoffed (either internally or externally) at my plan: “Oh, I’ll just phone up a few courier companies and ask them to do it for free.” Ok, I will admit that British Airways were unable to accommodate my request because SKOPE is a USA registered charity rather than a UK charity … My confidence was knocked slightly and I looked at the piles of books with despondence, wondering if the entire concept of a book drive had been a mistake.

But I’m never one to give up and so I moved on and contacted DHL. Interestingly, I’d already had a brief email exchange with a DHL employee in Cambodia about a long-forgotten matter over a year ago. This time, however, I was put in touch with their charity wing. Because, yes, DHL has a charity wing. Most large corporations do, thankfully succumbing to societal pressures to give back something to their communities and using some of their wealth for good. And SKOPE certainly received that in spades! I almost jumped for joy when I returned from my final Rotary meeting to find an email confirming that DHL would be able to ship 100 kilograms of books for SKOPE free of charge! This act of corporate kindness has not only made me happy but validated the kindness and hard work of Rotary members who had rallied together to collect these books. So thank you, DHL, you have no idea the difference this will make to our community library.

And these weren’t the only acts of kindness I experienced during the past two months. I received multiple donations from individuals, foundations, and Rotary Clubs in support of both SKOPE and the upcoming library. I have also just returned from the province where I have dropped two volunteers at SKOPE’s partner school, Karuna Youth Cambodia. Emma and Reece have been travelling South East Asia and decided to give something back along the way, sacrificing four weeks of their time to teach the children in a rural school. At a time when the world appears to be full simply of bad news and the prospects of our future as a species appear bleak, isn’t this proof that there are still good, kind people out there?

As the coordinator of SKOPE, all these acts of kindness made me happy. After all, they were the culmination of months of hard work, emails, meetings and organisational headaches. But my happiness was nothing compared to the happiness of the director of our partner school, nor, I suspect, the happiness of the children next week when they first enter their new library, filled with books and learning materials which will help them take their education to the next step.

Thanks to small, simple acts of kindness, whether it was digging out a few old books from the back of a cupboard or chucking a pound into a Rotary donation tin, or even the amazing people who championed my cause as Rotary contacts and allowed my voice to be heard, this library will be completed next week. I raised not only money for the library and Khmer language books but I also received an anonymous donation to cover the cost of the solar panel so the library can be used both in the evening and when monsoon clouds darken the sky.

So thank you, to each and every one of you who supported SKOPE and made this project possible. Your kindness and generosity are going to make 300 children living in rural Cambodia very, very happy!