This Saturday, a Mahwah mother of three is leaving the comfort of her suburban home to spend two weeks in a completely different atmosphere. Lisa Pavon will be traveling to the Kandal Province of Cambodia with seven other members of Jewish Helping Hands, a Manhattan-based service organization.
Pavon’s group will be building a library in the impoverished area, adding to a school building that JHH built in 2006. The volunteers will be working with a group of Cambodians on the construction.
“Everyone back home has been completely supportive of my doing this,” Pavon, who said this will mark her first service trip abroad, said. “I always wanted to do the Peace Corps thing, and it didn’t happen. I see this as a second chance to be able to get that experience.”
In addition to helping build the library and other volunteer work, Pavon will be getting an up-close look at the tumultuous history of the nation, which includes war, genocide, child trafficking, and a recent foray into democracy.
The itinerary for the group’s trip includes a visit to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, and to a killing field where Cambodians were murdered during the genocide. The group will also be exposed to the country’s recovering culture by visiting temples, restaurants, silk fields and villages.
“Our drive to educate our children [in America] is definitely something we take for granted,” Pavon said. “Part of our mission is to build that desire there.”
Each volunteer is bringing 50 pounds of donations to Cambodia. Pavon is bringing non-language toys, like volleyballs (donated by Mahwah Youth Volleyball) and soccer balls. She is still collecting donations of items like volleyball nets, kick balls, jump ropes and other outdoor equipment, as well as string to make friendship bracelets. Anyone interested in donating can reach out to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate drop off/pick up before she leaves for the trip Saturday.