Cambodian Journey with Joy Bryant

We’d like to welcome our newest columnist: actor, model, snowboarder and woman of the world Joy Bryant. For her first contribution Joy brings us the moving story of her trip to Cambodia as a guest of the global anti-poverty humanitarian organization OXFAM. Her journey in words and pictures after the jump.

In July 2010, I traveled to Cambodia with fellow journey woman and homie, Jauretsi Saizarbitoria as guests of the anti-poverty humanitarian organization OXFAM . As one of their Sisters on the Planet ambassadors, I signed on to help bring awareness to the effects of climate change as it relates to poor communities, especially poor women.

In Cambodia and in poor communities all over the world, people are feeling the effects of climate change right now. These are people who have had the least to do with the destruction of our planet, yet are suffering the most. When your livelihood depends on agriculture, extreme changes in weather can have devastating effects. It’s a matter of life or death, feast or famine. Increased drought and flooding leads to loss of crops and income, increased hunger and food scarcity, mosquito-borne diseases. And in Cambodia, a majority of the population makes their living through agriculture, that means the majority of its citizens are vulnerable.

OXFAM partners with local organizations on everything from sustainable farming methods to community based savings programs. The success of such programs depends on the involvement of the women of each community as they, like women all over the world, are the glue that keeps the community together. They hold it down but are often left out of the discussion when it comes to policy making and are the ones most unprepared when disaster strikes. It is by engaging and empowering them that real change can occur as women are vital to the health and prosperity of a country and its people. No disrespect to the men of the world.

Armed with our cameras and an arsenal of bug repellant, Jauretsi and I arrived ready to get “hands-on and knee deep”, as our itinerary stated. And so we did. In only 5 days, we covered a lot of ground from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap. Our trip was jammed packed with field visits and bumpy van rides through the beautiful Cambodian countryside; fresh coconut and ice cold Tiger beer; hot hot heat and ancient ruins.

We met people making due with what little they had and striving for better. People who greeted us with warm smiles and even warmer hearts. People emerging from a painful past with hope for the future. It still blows my mind that it all went down in five days. I wish I could have stayed longer. I know I will return again.

I fell in love with and connected to Cambodia and its people. Which makes sense, since apparently I banged our psychic monk tour guide in a former life…More on that later.

Coming soon on my blog camouflagedaydreams.com: Falling into a Past Life Vortex: The Cambodian Edition