The Story Brand

Human Resource Development and Language –

The brand name speaks for itself. It tells a story about learning, teaching and growing.

The organisation is built by some of the Khmer who learned about the ‘Science of Life’ program.

This program was founded because someone had a vision to implement a system of education that would break many young Cambodians out of the cycle of poverty by teaching life skills and mindset development.

As a result, there are many Cambodians who have gained a lot from this cult like system for learning and have gone on to open their own schools that teach the same principles to their students.

I have come close with many different minds in Cambodia, and I’ve been so intrigued by the ones who have been able to adopt a mindset for confidence, leadership, resilience and self sacrifice.

This program tells its own story, just like HDLF do. The school is built on people who have come from poverty and despite the intensity of their reality, they are willing to stand on the front line in order to end as much suffering as possible.

When you know what it’s like to truly suffer, whether that is physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually you develop an itch that must now be scratched. You experience a certain level of pain and all of a sudden there is this urge to solve a problem that ends the suffering or at least reduces the possibility for yourself and others around you.

That is one part of the organisations message that I am in love with. There is an underlying emphasis on mindset and wisdom sharing.

A sick roof top view in Phnom Penh at a bar called ‘Le Moon’.

Phnom Penh becomes so vibrant at night. The glamour of the Cambodian corporate world comes out to life, as you watch men and women sitting at candle lit tables, sipping red wine in their office attire.

It took me right back to those days in corporate Sydney. Those glitzy feeling Friday nights after a weeks full of hustle and bustle.

I loved the fact that we were looking down at a temple. I remember starring down at churches in Sydney. It helped me reconcile with the fact that I was amongst a society from the East.

Same same, but different 👌

The leader of the pack, you bark orders at everyone else in the gang of kids. You are the one to come up with all of the creative, mischievous ideas and you gather everyone around to help execute on them.

Around the volunteers, you are the ballsy one, literally and figuratively. You flash your private parts constantly and then you check over your shoulder to make sure your parents didn’t see your disgusting display. You aren’t afraid to push our buttons with your annoying, childish, younger brother-like behaviour.

You wake us up from our afternoon naps just because you are in the mood to play and you want attention. I have come so close to throwing my shoes at your head on multiple occasions.

At school, you are said to be the class clown. You don’t look very strained after a day at school. It doesn’t look like you do much but think about when you get to go home and getting laughs out of others.

You get worked hard at your parents shop though 😂 I love telling you to go fold your boxes while I chill with a beer after a hard days work.

You are a menace with a sweet heart, though. You have delivered plates of fruit to me before, a generous act on your part.

You will continue to be a menace, age won’t matter.

We love our Manoot 😏

When you get to experience a life of poverty and lack, firsthand;

I did an exercise recently where I was made to pick at my mind, digging deep into finding out certain things about myself that I did not know on a conscious level.

Although money and materialism means very little to me, I’ve always had this burning desire to build an abundance of wealth. I’ve had this desire since I was a child and I thought it was time I found out why this desire exists within.

After some hours of deep reflection and analysis, I brought some of these underlying desires to conscious levels of mind where I could view them clearly.

Having an abundance of wealth does not mean I can go and chase those short term highs by purchasing fancy cars and big homes.

Having an abundance of wealth to me means being able to create more opportunities for myself and those around me. It’s about having the means to create or chase certain profound experiences that can shape me as a person in order for me to improve on myself and those around me.

It means flying away on a whim, getting to enjoy life for its spontaneity, because those moments are usually the best ones that breed the most joy.

It means being able to obtain the best education and wisdom that exists currently and being able to apply that to my life and those around me in order to improve quality of life, in general.

Most importantly, it means I can give more. When there is more to give, there is more to receive and vice versa.

A beautiful end to a difficult day.

My alarm went off at 7am. That meant it was time for work. I turned over in my bed and realised I couldn’t do it. It was just one of those days where I had to listen and surrender to my body. I have been exhausted and emotionally drained.

The last few weeks have been so difficult. I’ve had loads on my mind; the storm that hit the school in Battambang, getting this school built in Sala Lek Bram and just some internal personal things that go on through my mind.

I live quite a different lifestyle to a lot of those back home, yet it is all relative. We all deal with the stresses of personal and career strains. I am 10 days into my smoke free rehabilitation journey and I think the pressures of my nicotine withdrawals are adding extra weight.

The sun will go down and tomorrow will be a new day. The construction of the school will go on and it’s going to be a challenge of my own to get up and continue on with the mission.

Monday Blues?

Journal Entry 📔 – 29/04

Another one of those scorching hot days in the village. Temperatures reached up to 38 degrees Celsius.

Doing labour intensive work in this heat is physically exhausting, but there is an emotional element to it as well. I really didn’t want to be here doing this stuff today. The whole day I was wishing to be anywhere else.

The school is said to be finished in about 2 months. I feel exhausted and I cannot wait for it to be done so I can take a small break.

I’m just not feeling it today. The Monday blues, perhaps? – who knows? I’m just glad we got to knock off for now.

FEFA School

When I first arrived in Cambodia, I had no clue as to the horrific events of its past. As I went on, I learned more and more about it’s history of destruction and chaos and as I learned more about that, my eyes opened further on what I thought I knew about human suffering.

If I had never made the decision to move to Cambodia, I wouldn’t know human suffering to this extent. Do I value my new learned knowledge, or is ignorance a bliss?

I beg the question as to whether it was all worth destroying my own innocence and naivety just for the sake of my own curiosity. It’s too late now, there is no turning back. You build a home, you make friends and you see suffering and so you become hooked.

Since being here, I can say that there isn’t much that pulls on me, emotionally. A lot of the contributions that I have made are emotionally detached and professional. But, every now and then you get hooked on to something, emotionally.

Being there to witness the storm destroy the kitchen of the school last week was one of those moments that made this experience a little more personal for me. Improving the living conditions of the people in that school is no longer a professional pursuit for me, but rather a personal one. I can’t move on knowing there are people who I know personally who live in conditions like that.

Part of my mission with ‘This is Philanthropy’ is to change the way in which we contribute to the lives of others in order to make the world a better place. This approach is more personalised, placing choice in the hands of the giver and building a rapport between the giver and the receivers.

In the fundraiser that I am going to start, I am going to list the things that are needed to improve the conditions of this school. It is up to you as the giver to select where you would like your money to go and to watch the progress as conditions improve.

It would be much appreciated if you could donate. Even the smallest amount would mean a lot.

A Fresh Start

I love this picture.

It was taken a day after the storm hit. Channrong painting some bamboo.

It signifies to me a sense of restoration. The colour green is known to represent harmony and freshness. This image captures that. It’s the calm after the storm and it’s time to start over and move on.

Bamboos include some of the fastest growing plants in the world. I feel a sense of resilience appearing from the shot – a fresh start.

Torn to Shreds

This is what the kitchen looks like after the storm.

It’s such a shame to see people living like this. Once the storm hit, I moved myself into town as I felt my safety was at risk, but I’ve returned to the school everyday to check up and have meetings with Sova about what we can do about this new problem.

Having stayed in this school for weeks at a time, I can now see how tough things can get for the people living there. The students and teachers do their best to pull their weight around, helping to build, cook and help raise the younger kids.

The conditions can get so rough. The students sleep on the floors of the dorms and wake up to study each day.

After the storm struck the other afternoon, I began to re-evaluate whether or not this was a safe place for me to be staying at the moment. There is a line you must draw sometimes, and this was it.

I really began to feel for the people of the school after the storm. I realised how much struggle goes on in there. Everyone works so hard to make it all work for the students. It’s a lifestyle of bare necessity for the sake of helping underprivileged students get out of the poverty cycle as much as possible.

It wasn’t until after my stay in this commune was when I realised, shit this is no way for people to live. I probably romanticised the whole experience a little too much while I was living there. Plus, it was only during the later days of my stay was when I realised the true reality of this kind of living and it can be quite confronting.


I try my best to constantly remind myself that no amount of money, no level of achievement and no external situation is going to make me happier than the happiness I cultivate within myself.

Sometimes, you wish for more. During those nights of discomfort, you wish you were living in luxury. During those lonely moments you are wishing for love and those moments of pure passion and motivation, you are striving for high levels of achievement and impact.

But, this attachment to these external things can only do so much. They bring joy in the short term, but it’s a known fact that once the novelty wears off, you go back to the same place you once were before you attained these things.

Happiness, love and impact begin from within.