‘We ourselves feel like what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.’ – Mother Teresa
Our bikes came to a sudden stop on the dirt road. Curious faces popped into view as the dust settled and we clambered off our seats. We exchanged apprehensive looks as the team leaders directed us toward a ramshackle house on stilts. We waited at the bottom, blinking up at the sunlight as a woman climbed down. We smiled shyly and she returned one automatically, a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
Photos were passed around and I lifted my sunglasses to see better her beautiful family, three children and a husband. I was still holding a picture of the children laughing when our translator explained that this woman; standing small and quiet, had lost her family the year before in a boating accident. My stomach dropped and I pulled my sunglasses back over my eyes; they began to prickle.
In 2009, a 2h Safe Arrivals team had been visiting a neighbouring village when the tragedy occurred, and were invited to attend the wake. Since then, those involved had kept the woman in their prayers, and though many of us from the 2010 team hadn’t known anything about her until that point, her loss hit us hard, too. We weren’t asked but each of us covertly handed money to Piseth, to go toward starting a small business. In the face of all she’d lost it was a small gift, and the inadequacy of it sat heavy in my chest the whole ride back.
In a small community across the Mekong River, a short ferry trip from Phnom Pehn, we were able to listen to one woman’s story and contribute in a small way. It probably didn’t change the world, but hopefully it changed hers.