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Our Origin Story: pickle jars, year 10 health class and a rice field in Cambodia

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

You never know where a simple idea, a throwaway comment or a chance meeting will lead you. These events, seemingly so disconnected, coalesced over many years of hard work and the generous backing of our supporters, into POD Projects.

A recycled pickle jar and a group decision to spend a year collecting loose change which we would combine and donate at the end of that year. A valuable lesson for our kids, and easy to do in our busy lives. Some of us threw gold coins at the jar on a regular basis, others decided on a target, divided by 52, then divided by family members and then checked off each week! We are a diverse bunch, but the result was the same. We saved a very healthy sum of money that year and after a group trip to Vietnam, we decided to donate to KOTO Foundation; a not-for-profit social enterprise that empowers at risk and disadvantaged youth through its hospitality training program. In a little restaurant in Ho Chi Min City there is a sponsor brick with all our names on it!

Simple, but it started a little fire in us.

Not long after this, one of our kids came home from school and when asked “what happened today?”, did not give the usual answer of “nothing”. Mum, we had a talk today about kids our age who are homeless and living in very difficult conditions. “Imagine not being able to have a shower and get clean”. This simple statement led to a discussion about how lucky we were and what we could do to help. And that is where the idea of the hygiene bags was hatched. For the next few months every time we did a grocery shop, we threw in an extra soap, deodorant, and shampoo. We set a target of 50 bags and gathered our supplies, roping in extended family. We hit the sewing machines (it had been a while, and there were some “interesting” sewing sessions!). On packing day, it was a group effort and 50 toiletry bags stocked full of supplies for teenagers was delivered to Youth off the Streets. It left a lasting impact on all of us, and many hundreds and hundreds of bags later, we continue to sew and supply hygiene bags to charities and public appeals with the help of our wonderful supporters.

A little more effort, but that fire was burning brighter.

And then we went to Cambodia, the trip that changed everything. How lucky were we to have met Touch Darith. He was our guide and one night we found ourselves in a Siem Reap rice field, in 38-degree weather with 100% humidity. Now add Bombay Sapphire Gin (from the local service station) that was poured like it was the tonic! It was a great night and Darith opened up about his school, his desire to give back to his community, and the importance of education for his people. He invited us to visit his school the next day. After a very slow start, and a vow to never drink gin again, we visited Smiles of Angkor School. We flew back home, we talked, we planned, we what-iffed, and we kept thinking about the work that needed to be done. POD Projects was born, and the fire had now taken hold.

Footnote: Pod Projects did not keep their vow and continue to enjoy a gin & tonic!

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