Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crouch Potatoes - Past, Present and Future

Wow – 2 years since the last post huh…

I guess that it’s due mainly in part to our laziness and the fact that we live much more interesting lives when we’re not working. Hence the reason we’re blogging now…..

But before we get into all that, let’s fill you in on the basics. Some of you are probably new to our story and probably too lazy to read back through the hundred or so blog posts from 2009/10 to find out what we’ve been up to.  So here’s a summary in bullet form:

The Past (2009-2012)
  • July 2009 we quit our jobs, packed up our lives into a backpack, and headed off overseas.
  • We had a plan to “open our eyes” to some of the needs people have overseas and work out how to fill those needs as best we could.
  • Our starting point was an Indian orphanage where we planned to spend a month helping out.
  • Almost a year later, we left the orphanage having built a computer lab, raised $20K for much needed supplies, taught at their attached school and made about 150 new friends whom we love dearly.
  • We went to SE Asia and spent 6 months travelling and visiting about a half-dozen aid organisations that are making marginalised lives better in Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia.
  • In late 2010 we came back to Australia and decided that whilst volunteering is useful, with our skill-sets the best help we could provide was financial.
  • We gave our 2011 wages (~$150K) to the organisations we’d visited overseas.
  • During 2011 and 2012 we financed:
  • A school to be built in Cambodia
• A village improvement project in Cambodia
• Funds for a girls dormitory at the Indian orphanage
• Funds for educating Burmese refugee children in Thailand
• Funds for an Adelaide run hospital in Uganda
• Funds to provide famine aid at a refugee camp in Kenya
(More details about these organisations & projects at the
       end of this post)
  • In 2012 we experienced the blow of losing Miriam’s mother to cancer.
The Present (2013)
  • We’ve resigned from our jobs (finishing on 21st March 2013)
  • We’ve packed up our lives into backpack form again
  • We’re heading to Mt Gambier for family & farm work (2 weeks)
  • We’ve booked flights to Phuket (1 week), Singapore (2 days) and India (? Months)
  • We’re keen to go to Spain (? Months)
  • We’re keen to travel the East coast of Australia with a 4WD, kayaks & bikes (? Months)
  • We’ll figure out the next steps when we’re on the road….stay tuned
What we’ve learnt
  • From a wealth and opportunity perspective, we’re extremely fortunate to be Australian
  • Despite that fortune, life can still be tough, but it does go on
  • When you’re fortunate in life – it’s nice to pass it on

2011-12 Projects
For those still reading this blog post (a bit wordy we know) here are a few more details on the organisations and projects we sponsored with our 2011 wages:

Child’s Dream 
Blog Links: Cambodia July 2010, Thailand August 2010, Laos September 2010 
Org Links: Child's Dream
We met with this organisation in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, and during our travels were very impressed with their professionalism, most likely due to it being founded and managed by a couple of highly skilled ex-Swiss bankers. Their mission states “To empower marginalised communities in the Mekong Sub-Region to shape their own futures. We achieve this by working with communities to improve healthcare and education for children and provide socio-economic opportunities for families.

Cambodian School $55,000
Project Links: Rolom Veng School

Throughout our travels we visited at least a dozen schools in Cambodia and Laos, in various stages of development by Child's Dream. For us it was a very obvious choice to assist them in promoting education in a region that is severely lacking educated people (thanks to the Khmer Rouge). We have been provided excellent information on this project and were invited to the school opening in 2012, but needed to cancel due to the passing of Miriam's mother at the time.    

Burmese Refugee Education Funding – $10,000
Project Links: KRCEE Education
The "Karen" ethnic group are a minority group within Burma, a large population of them have fled the conflict with the Burmese government to refugee camps in Thailand. Up to her death in 2012, Miriam's mother, Anita Walker had been teaching English, driving and basic (western) life skills to those who had migrated from these camps to Australia. At her funeral, their choir sung a touching tribute to her for the work she had done amongst them, impressing on us how much impact she had on their lives. From our earlier visits with Child's Dream we were aware that they assisted with educational programs in these refugee camps and provided some funds towards higher education in her memory. 

Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS)
Blog Links: July 2010
Org Links: ALWS, DWS
ALWS is the overseas aid arm of the Lutheran Church of Australia. Whilst not Lutherans ourselves, we were in contact with this organisation whilst overseas and looking at organisations that could show us how foreign aid is implemented in developing countries. ALWS partners with DWS, the "on-the-ground" relief and development arm of the wider Lutheran Church. DWS works in 32 countries around the world and lists its priority areas as:
- Responding to and preparing for disasters
- Creating sustainable communities
- Combating HIV & AIDS
- Promoting peace, reconciliation and human rights
- Transforming gender relations
- Protecting the environment

Cambodian Village project - $5,500
Project Links: Village PartnershipRural Development
When in Cambodia in 2010, ALWS helped us get in contact with Lutheran World Federation - Cambodia, and we were able to visit a village that has been assisted by LWF for the past 10 years. The thing that impressed us the most was that the village no longer required assistance as they had become self-sufficient due to the training they had received. We decided to take part in the "Partner a Village" project which provided the following to the O Tong village, west of Phnom Penh:
- Adult Education (Health, Law, Projects, Gender issues)
- Infrastructure (culverts, road paving, latrines, irrigation pond)
- Academic scholarships for poor students

East African Famine Aid - $20,000 ($40,000 after AusAid matched it)
Project Links: African Appeal
During 2011, East Africa was hit by a terrible famine which displaced millions of people and worsened the security situation in countries such as Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Whilst apportioning our funds to donate, we decided to divert some of our funds towards this crisis. We chose ALWS/LWF due to our previous relationship with them and AusAid's offer to match the donation. The money given was used in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to provide food, medical and educational supplies to the over 500,000 refugees the camp provides for.

Maranatha Health - Ugandan Hospital Funds - $11,000
Org Links: Maranatha Health
Maranatha Health began with a young couple in Adelaide having a passion to help the African people. Combining this passion with their training (doctor and community health worker) they set off to the Kamwege district of Uganda to build and run a hospital & associated health programs. These guys, with their local staff and dedicated team of Australian-based volunteers are making a huge difference in one of the poorest districts of Uganda. When we heard about Maranatha Health, we felt that supporting them financially would be a great way to make a positive difference. Due to tax and legal reasons the organisation could not attribute our funds directly to any particular project or item – One of the founders was kind enough to offer some examples of how the money could have been spent:
  • Motorbike ($1500) The purchase of a motorbike for our community development activities – this allows us to visit the communities we are partnering with – we use the motorbike almost every day, as often the places we go are in remote villages with only small tracks...
  • Oxygen Concentrator ($1000) An oxygen concentrator, which is one of the interventions we use to keep children alive at the MH clinic. It can service 2 children at once – and in the MH ward, we use it almost full time!
  • Operating Costs ($2500)Runs the entire place for 7 days – that includes salaries for staff, electricity, water, transport, medications, community work – almost everything!
  • Theatre Slab ($5000)Built the concrete slab for our theatre … This theatre is going to provide life-saving operations to mothers in Kamwenge who have difficulties in labour – and it needed a slab to rest on!

Indian Orphanage - Girls Hostel (Ongoing) - $50,000
Blog Links: Arrival (Aug 2009)Departure (May 2010) (+ dozens more)
Org Links: Indian Orphanage
Project Links: Girl's Hostel
In 2009-2010 we spent 8 months volunteering at the "Strong Farm" - the local term for the orphanage, and it was probably the most memorable 8 months of our lives. Whilst you could define our time there as teaching/administration this does not do it justice. We built relationships with the staff and children there that will last a lifetime, and after 3 years away it is definitely time to go back (35 days and counting). The girl's accommodation is in dire need of rebuilding with mould, mosquitoes and even snakes threatening the girl's health and safety. They have finished demolition of the areas that are being rebuilt and we are looking forward to seeing construction start soon.


  1. Nice blog post. I don't know what to say. That's humbling (the blog post content). The summaries make it really clear.

  2. We miss you guys already. Was SO good to see you before you left. Annabelle wanted her hair in a ponytail again today just like Miriam. "I love her so much". Too cute. My thoughts exactly.