Lead a vivid life that does good

Tag: Cambodia

Don’t let big numbers stop you making a difference.

663 million people with no clean water.As this post goes live, my friend at work has her 1 billionth second on this planet. HAPPY 1,000,000,000 seconds.

As humans were generally not that good at understanding numbers. A Million or a Billion, not that much different right? Well…

  • A thousand seconds, is 16 minutes away. Make sense, feels about right.
  • A million seconds, which is 1000 x 1000, is 11.5 days away. Less than a fortnight.
  • A billion seconds, which is 1000 x 1000 x 1000, is just on 32 years away. I think I just gave away my friends age.

There is a massive difference between 1 million and a billion.

Count the population of NZ at 1 per second … 52 days. Count the population of the world at 1 per second … 228 years!

I love the way that counting seconds gives us a better perspective on large numbers.

Numbers like…

  • Only about half the world’s population have water on tap, which means at their compound. That means 3.7 BILLION people don’t. Imagine counting that high (114 years.)
  • Worse yet, 663 million people have no access, zero, to clean water.
  • And as for sanitation. 2.4 Billion people have no access to toilets.

It’s big numbers like these, that drove Jim & I to set up the Good Trust. Not because we alone can get water to 663,000,000 people, but because we know we can make a difference to a few.

It turns out its easier than you’d expect, for you, 1 person, to make a difference for many many people.

The key.

Don’t let the big numbers scare you.

Over the last few years Good Trust has provided clean water to over 6,000 people, and we are super excited to be visiting some of our projects in Cambodia in April. Thanks to our supporters! We have the ideas, you’ve made things happen. We look forward to sharing stories.

If you would like to support the Good Trust, we’d love it if you made a donation. It would be a great use of a few seconds.

Finally, back to my friend, who is now many seconds past 1,000,000,000. Congratulations! I know that your next Billion seconds will be your best yet!

2 lessons about leadership I gleaned while being driven through Phnom Penh.

Those of you who have travelled through parts of  Asian know how mad, crazy, radical their driving can be.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/54691916 w=500&h=282]
If you haven’t, watch this short video of a normal intersection at 6:30 at night.

At first we described it as ‘Organised Chaos’ and soon realised that it was best described as “Disorganised Order”. Everyone headed were they needed to go, in an orderly yet apparently disorganised way.

The drivers themselves were probably the most fascinating part of the driving experience. They’re a paradox of determination and grace. They wanted to get there first and fast, but were gracious as others pushed and squeezed their Tuk Tuk’s into gaps that moments before didn’t exist.

Disorganised Order,


Determination with Grace.

Disorganised Order, you don’t see that much in business or law in New Zealand. I wonder if it isn’t the essence of being truly entrepreneurial.


I have met plenty of determined people, and I have the privilege of knowing a lot of gracious people. Sadly, most often the determined people are not characterised by grace.

Determined with Grace, describes the leader I would like to be.

We are all horrendous and beautiful.

As I stood motionless at the Killing Fields, what seemed like millions of tear drops landed on my umbrella. The bleak wet day only added to my somber mood as the horror of humanity played out in my mind. Men, women, boys, girls & babies slaughtered by their fellow countrymen on a scale I will never grasp.

Looking intently at a single skull I am repulsed by humanity. This skull is just one of thousands lining the shelves, that represent up to 1.4 million murder victims in Cambodia. At the height of the killing in Cambodia I was 8 years old and I heard of how boys as young as 11 were conscripted to the Khmer Rouge to become killers. Boys then, who are now men in their forties, murderers.

It is easy to stand divorced from the moment and think we would have behaved differently.

But we all have deceived others. All been deceived.

When faced with the choice of kill, or be killed, few of us really have the strength and courage to choose anything but life.

Humanity at its core is desperately dark.

We are all horrendous.


As I traveled Cambodia every person I saw or spoke with was beautiful.

Some had bodies disfigured in ways I have never before seen, but they are beautiful.

Our Tuk Tuk drivers, beautiful.

The beggar and her child, beautiful.

Poor children playing in the water from a good well, beautiful.

Often the stories and circumstances were heart breaking, but the people …


Only senior officials of the Khmer Rouge will be brought to justice, which means tens of thousands of murderers now live ordinary lives in Cambodia. Is it possible I met some of these killers and thought they were beautiful? Yes, and I now understand that in the right circumstance we are all capable of the horror of the Khmer Rouge. (That doesn’t make it right.)

You are capable of these things.

You are horrendous.

Yet I just think … you are beautiful.

Lesson 4 from Cambodia visit 2012: We are all capable of horrendous things and we are all beautiful people.

So the water that comes from the Well is not 100% pure?

Mid sentence Jim exhaled an audible groan and instantly we burst into uncontrolled laughter. The groan just reflected the thoughts echoing in our heads as we bounced, banged and rocked our way along the red clay road in a remote rural area of Cambodia. Our hosts were taking us, no, bouncing us to a village where BioSand Filters where in production.

We had come to Cambodia to see the good.water wells that Good Trust had funded and our partners Samaritans Purse have installed. Once at the communities we saw the wells, turned the handles to pump water, took photos and asked questions. It was incredibly satisfying to see clean water pouring from a hand pump on a well that we had enabled. Yet after watching them pump water, they promptly poured it into these bizarre looking concrete containers that trickled forth clean drinking water.

To be honest, before seeing Bio-Sand Filters (BSFs) in action I had not appreciated the importance they played in providing clean water. I very naively thought that we put a Well in, and the water was fresh and ready to drink. It is close, and infinitely better than drinking brown dirty water directly from the rice fields, which is what they did before, however when the water is filtered through a BSF is is 99% free of the germs and ugly stuff that causes sickness.

They are awesome!

Once we arrived at the village where BSFs were being built, we saw how actively involved the community was in constructing them. SP provided the molds and materials, and the people set about building almost a 100 BSFs for each home in the area. BSFs are very low maintenance and last up to 15 years. (If you want to know more about how BSFs work click here).

And the cost of the materials to provide clean water to a household for 15 years?

$30 !

Personally what struck me most as I left the communities we visited was not that they had clean water, but rather how incredibly fortunate we are.

To get clean water they hand-pump water, carry it back to their home and pour it through a BSF. I on the other hand not only shower in drinking water at the turn of a tap, but water my lawns with drinking water in the summer.

And, for the price of feeding my family of 5 takeaways on the odd occasion, I could provide a family with clean water for 15 years!

Lesson 2 from Cambodia visit 2012: Bio Sand Filters are awesome value and worth the investment.

2 tips for being more generous and compassionate.

On a wet humid evening we sat outside on the bustling street corner, in the heart of the action, waiting to enjoy our meal. The restaurant we chose, our clothes and the colour of our skin screamed to the locals that we were wealthy foreigners to Phnom Penh, and almost immediately we were confronted with invitations to purchase or give. Girls the age of my daughters selling bags, young men selling books and a Mother with a young child simply begging. At first we engaged with them, then quickly learnt it was easier to ignore them and their need.

Later as we meandered along the streets we saw a young child (12 – 18 months) standing on the footpath. I glanced down to see her mother bent over a rubbish bag scavenging for food. As I walked past I realised it was the women who had begged from us at dinner. The woman and child I had ignored. I returned and gave her some money, she thanked me, and went back to scavenging in the rubbish.

I learnt some lessons that evening, learnings that have implications beyond the poverty encountered in Cambodia.

We must be prepared to give:
When I hit Cambodia I hadn’t formed this thinking, which meant each situation I encountered required me to make yes/no decisions. Soon the answer just becomes NO.

You can’t fix everything you see, so being prepared means having the forethought to know what you believe in giving to, and how much. And to whom.

This applies equally back home. Knowing what we will give to, helps when people knock on the door or telemarketers call. Importantly knowing what you believe in giving to, means you will give. If you’re not prepared the answer quickly becomes NO.

We must be ready to give:
If being prepared is a state of mind, then being ready is practical. For us it meant having small amounts of money available for donations. Whether running in the morning or on a Tuk Tuk, we had money to give without hesitation to make a small difference.

At home, I barely ever carry money, and therefore it is significantly harder for me to give without hesitation to make a small immediate difference.

I know a lot of people like me have a heart to give, to be compassionate and yet miss opportunities. So may you prepare your hearts to know when and how you will give. And then may you be ready to give without hesitation.

May you encounter the joy of making a difference.

Lesson 1 from Cambodia visit 2012: Being prepared to give.