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A look into Cambodia

09 Feb 2017

A look into Cambodia Image

Photography Studies College (PSC) teacher Julie Wajs describes Cambodian people as some of the most beautiful she’s ever encountered.

Julie recently travelled to the South East Asian country to photograph and document the work of Cambodian non-government organisation (NGO) World of Difference to help raise awareness for its projects.

She said trauma suffered under the dictatorship of communist leader Pol Pot, who was responsible for ordering the executions of millions of Cambodians during the 1970s, was still very evident.

Yet despite this, Julie said that the warmth and resilience of the Cambodian people was like nothing she had ever experienced.

“The amazing thing for me with the Cambodians is that there is not a lot of anger or bitterness like there is in Germany or Japan with Hiroshima. These people witnessed the most brutally awful things and yet they just get on with it,” she said.

World of Difference was started in 2012 when local Cambodian Rithy Ann led South Melbourne Rotarian Bronwyn Stephens to the town of Bosala south west of capital Phnom Penh.

After witnessing some shocking health and education issues Ms Stephens engaged her local Rotary club in the community, which would ultimately lead to the establishment of World of Difference.

The organisation has provided the community with urgent medical assistance and built a school in the region amongst a host of other projects. It has since extended its outreach to other parts of Cambodia.

Julie travelled with a team of doctors and an engineer last year with the mission to document the NGO’s efforts through photography, which would ultimately manifest in the form of a photobook.

With images stemming from life in the local hospital, schools and around the villages, the photobook provides a stunningly, breathtaking and intricate insight into life in Cambodia.

Julie launched the photobook at an exhibition this month and all the proceeds from sales will be going straight towards the NGO’s current efforts to provide teacher training.

“In terms of putting the book together I’ve tried to make it about the different aspects of the project and keeping it a bit more universal,” Julie said.

“Bronwyn has been taking teachers there to train teachers, so the main thing is improving education because Pol Pot wiped them all out and they’re still recovering.”

With a background in commercial photography, Julie admitted that, while the experience was initially a shock to her system, she would go back tomorrow if given the chance.

“I’m not used to running around and shooting from the hip like that but it was a pretty amazing experience,” she said.

“They’re beautiful people. I would go back tomorrow. I think these experiences are always really grounding because we can take so much for granted.”

To find out more information or to purchase the photobook visit wod.org.au

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