B1G1 Event Recap by Sreymom!

Hello Free To Shine supporters!

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Sreymom and I am the Program Officer at Free To Shine. I have worked for Free To Shine for nearly two years now and have found so much passion and the sense of belongingness at this incredible organisation.This past weekend I was given the opportunity to travel to Singapore for the B1G1 Conference. Travelling with me was Chanda, an Education Officer at Free To Shine. Chanda is unique at Free To Shine because in 2012 she was welcomed onto our program as a beneficiary and in 2016 Chanda was hired as an Education Officer, making her Free To Shine’s first ever transition from beneficiary to employee!

This trip was also exciting because it was Chanda's first time ever leaving Cambodia.Upon arrival at the airport, we checked-in and found our flight. This process was not new to me but really new for Chanda. Although I have flown before I have never had any weather issues. This flight was delayed twice due to bad weather which gave us both a scared feeling before departure...On the plane, Chanda looked so scared and her palms were very white, maybe because of the cold air from the air conditioning but also because of the overall frightening feeling. I explained to her that upon take off, it would be little scary with a weird feeling in your stomach. I also told her that when the plane goes through the clouds, it will be bumpy like when we drive our motos on the village roads. I asked her to look at the beauty of the sky and I hoped she would feel better.

Meanwhile, I was also feeling a little scared, and chose to read my book as a coping strategy... Once the plane landed, and we were safely on the ground, Chanda and I were cheerful and very very relieved.Before landing at Changi International Airport, I did some research about Singapore and I learned that people say it's the most amazing airport in the world. I started to believe that once I stepped off the plane. The airport is so so big and everything seemed very technologically advanced, especially the security.When we got off the plane, it took us more than an hour to find the way out of immigration. There was even a machine at the airport for information that you can search for locations in the airport. It seemed amazing but mostly challenging because we didn’t know how to use it. Then it became even more complicated when we tried to use it....  it all ended as a funny experience because we got very lost in the airport.After finally finding our way out of the airport, we met Nicky who came to the airport to help us. Without her assistance, it would have taken us 5 days to learn how to use all of the electronics, and find the right fast train! We had never taken a fast train before either, it was incredible!

During the trip we stayed at the Carlton Hotel, WOW. It's the tallest building I have ever been in. It’s very fancy too! Looking at the city, I was so amazed at how tall all of the buildings were and I didn’t see any rubbish on the ground! The facilities in hotel were also very memorable because we were not used to them at all. Luckily Nicky explained everything to us like the lifts, room key scanners and how to use the showers with hot and cold water.

On the first day of the Global B1G1 Conference, there were so many people chatting outside the conference room and I was so excited. Everything was very well organised, I really love the B1G1 team who used the music for time control and random table numbers for seating. This was a great way for all participants to meet and to make new friends!

One session that I really liked was the 'Human Library'. This creative idea involved each person reading a story about themselves and contributing their experience to the human library. I really liked this because it shared everyone’s story and talked about our collective experience.

Regarding the speakers, all of them were incredible but perhaps the most interesting speaker for me was Dali Schonfelder. She’s just 17 years old and does an amazing job at running a T-shirt business that helps children in India receive school uniforms! Her voice and the way she moved on stage during her presentation was strong, clear and interesting. Another memorable speaker was Heather Yelland. Heather used a toilet roll to show the human nature of focusing on the problem rather than a solution, even if the solution is right in front of you! Tim Wade was another great speaker who spoke about the types of people you want on your team. Lastly, Steve Pipe, who I met earlier in the conference, seemed quiet and a little reserved but, once he was on the stage for his presentation, oh he just opened my eyes. He was so interesting and made everyone enjoy his presentation with a lot of funny jokes. He also talked about the amazing idea of sharing all intellectual property and introduced his 'Get and Give A Million' initiative!

Wow the auction! The word Auction is very new idea for Chanda and I and we didn’t  understand it. I asked Kylie but she said it might be more fun for me to find out for myself. I chose not to check my English-Khmer dictionary and headed for the auction!

The MCs, Tim Wade and Wayne Schmidt made the auction really funny, I enjoyed their words and their moves, it was like watching two comedians! At the beginning, when the MCs asked people to raise their number in order to bid, Chanda tried to raise hers and Nicky just immediately stopped her.. She forgot what it meant and she nearly bid USD $1,000! We laughed a lot.

The auction also made me cry. All the money raised from the auction was divided equally between 4 NGOs including Free To Shine. Wayne, asked all participants to close their eyes just like an innocent child. He asked everyone to imagine they were a child in Cambodia, without enough food to eat and other difficult life scenarios… I don’t know how since my eyes were closed but tears dropped from my face onto my hands. I saw what he was describing very clearly, even I have experienced some of the issues he told us to imagine.By the end, $8000 USD was raised just for a box of tissues. Then everyone got the chance to share and everyone raised their hand to receive the paper in order to write in a donation. This made me cry again, I was so surprised how much people cared about us even though, they are not Cambodian. Everyone was so generous, and their support made me feel so warm.

Toward the end of the conference, I was given two B1G1 water bottles for Chanda and I. When we arrived on the bus we saw one more water bottle that was left on the seat. The organiser told us to keep it since we were participants. I was excited since we had three water bottles now and we could use it as a lucky draw for my team back in Siem Reap. Then we started thinking maybe we could find enough for everyone on the team to have a B1G1 water bottle from Singapore!Chanda and I tried to asked everyone we met at bar, they responded quickly that they would love to give them to us. As a result we got 21 water bottles for our team! Chanda and I were very happy. Everyone got one, now we save our money and save our environment. We all fill up our new water bottles before going out in the community, instead of using wasteful plastic bottles!

Finally, Chanda and I would like to say thank you to Karen Ormerod and her great clothing company, Kobomo and Kylie Anderson and her wonderful accounting firm, RJS Accounting who sponsored our trip to Singapore with flights, accommodation and they made it possible for us to join the conference as participants. Second, thank you to Nicky and everyone who gave us a very warm welcome and support in Singapore. And lastly, Thank you to to B1G1 who organised the incredible event and created the connection between generous business groups and Free To Shine. We could never thank everyone enough for giving us this opportunity to see the world and meet the kind people who care so much for Free To Shine. Thank you!

Thank you for reading!