Sandwiched between the week building house #200 and a week where we had nearly 100 volunteers building five houses, we went on a staff retreat – to the beach!
This might not sound like a big deal to many, but most of our team had never been to the beach. In fact, some of our team members had never been further than about 50 kilometres from their hometown.
The entire team went – builders, teachers, office staff – even our work experience admin officer and our volunteer teacher from Ireland. There were 18 of us in total.
It was four days and three nights of new experiences, team bonding and pushing boundaries.
Day one was spent travelling. We left Siem Reap around 6am and we arrived in Sihanoukville after 6pm. It was a long day, especially for those who felt motion sick. And at least one of our team members had never been on a bus before.
The long drive was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. And there were some work-related activities involved, including a discussion about communication, what it means and why it is important. It was great to hear everyone’s perspectives on communication and the questions they had.
After that there was, of course, karaoke. And the team sang and danced their way into Sihanoukville with the bus rocking to mostly Khmer tunes and Mr Det and Mr Bunthorn showing off their entertainment skills.
We spent two nights at Otres Beach, just outside of Sihanoukville and arrived to find there was no power. Fortunately it came back on later in the evening. The area was surrounded by big construction sites – no longer the quiet place it used to be.
Day two was BEACH day and there was much excitement. The waves were more like whitewash lapping the shore but everyone had a ball playing in them. Many of the team could not swim so the conditions were perfect – shallow and gentle. There was a barbecue on the beach with seafood and vegetables. Then pitched in to hire a boat and go to an island.
Some were scared of the boat journey, but Buntheun took the helm from the boat owner and drove us out to Horse Island. We were the only ones there, which was lovely – and it was a beautiful bay with clear water. Sadly, it was clear others had been before us – and left all their rubbish behind.
Everyone except Mr Gaek got in the water – many with life jackets. There was so much fun with water fights and a few explored the rocks and coral below the water with a mask.
When we got back to Sihanoukville, proper waves were rolling in. The boat journey was a bit rougher, which made a few of our team nervous and they were chest height on some as we got out of the boat. But, everyone was excited to play in the waves.
Kampot and Bokor Mountain
Day two was another big day, which included a trip to Bokor Mountain, near Kampot – about three hours from Sihanoukville. The road was rough and the trip was slow, but worth it. The mountain was in clouds when we arrived but cleared enough to give us stunning views of the ocean.
From the mountain we headed to Kampot and had lunch at a spot on the river near some rapids at a local place with hammocks. The views were stunning and the river gorgeous. Afterwards we went to a water park – Teuk Chhou – where fresh water cascaded over small rapids and through man-made rock pools. The water was chilly but everyone had a ball.
We spent that night at a lovely guesthouse on the river a few kilometres outside of Kampot. It was a beautiful rural setting and had a swimming pool.
Building a better team
The trip home was another 12-hour journey on the bus. It involved some rest time and then a discussion on leadership – what makes a good leader or a bad leader. And there was encouragement to everyone that they are all leaders within the organisation and their own lives.
It’s the first VBC team trip – or staff retreat – and it was a huge success. Sinn is already making plans to do more team bonding outings.