In January 2007, Kerry headed off from Brisbane to Cambodia, for a 2 month volunteering trip to help in a local school in the impoverished town of Siem Reap. She had spent the first half of her life as an Administrator and trainer, and after children, as a Senior Bridal Consultant and then studied for her Real Estate Agent License and was a registered practicing Real Estate Agent.
Kerry is a Mum of two adult children, daughter Kiah, and son Blaed, who all thought they would experience the ‘Real’ Cambodia together and be enlightened, and that their volunteering would only last for 2 months.
After one month of volunteering and by chance, Kerry was taken to an urban slum area of Siem Reap by a tuk tuk driver. She was overwhelmed by the poverty, the malnutrition, the filth and the sense of hopelessness, the listlessness and the hollow look in the eyes of mothers and children.
Kerry reacted by extending her stay by a month and teamed up with a local, and as Co-Director, registered necessary documentation with the Cambodian Government for a NGO, rented a deserted Karaoke Shop, and opened a free school for the illiterate children of all ages in the area.
Kerry returned home to Brisbane, thinking she would return to Cambodia a few months later, but she could not forget the images of looking into the eyes of many mothers and children and seeing such sadness. Within 6 weeks, she returned to Siem Reap.
She discovered the very poor and destitute were labeled by middle class and wealthy Khmers as worthless, unintelligent and a lost cause. Always drawn to a challenge, Kerry started to extend the school programs by developing community programs, working with families not only with education, but offering food, support and medical, reassuring all who were suffering, they had somewhere to turn in critical times, someone who cared and would do all within their power to help, no matter what the circumstances.
Kerry worked with young girls and mums who were victims of the sex trade, assisting wherever possible, offering them support with their children, treating them with the respect and understanding they deserved thus giving them strength to carry on.
She remembers times when distressed mothers who could not feed their children, would come to speak to her, after being offered US$1,000 for their daughters, asking for advice or support. They were wondering whether they should sacrifice the future of 1 child, in order to feed and educate the rest of their children. Through Kerry’s tenacity and determination that every child shall have equal opportunity no matter what the circumstances, via programs, counseling and care Kerry had put into place, many families survived these dreadful situations, and today their children are educated, well-adjusted and have a bright future.
Nearly five years had elapsed and by August 2012, Kerry’s son Blaed, who had also made Cambodia his home and working at another NGO, planned with his mother to open a new NGO. After much angst, Kerry felt the need to establish a new NGO and show the same respect and support to a whole new commune of families surviving by collecting rubbish, helping children not being able to afford schooling and support many families suffering domestic violence, discrimination, sickness, and malnutrition.
Around the same time, Arlene Gormley, an Irish girl with a heart for the people and volunteering in Siem Reap, had also been working with Kerry, had decided to join the team, and so Feeding Dreams Cambodia was born. All relevant Cambodian Government registrations and approvals were processed, and the community was so grateful of our presence in the community. Feeding Dreams opened its doors on 1 November 2012, which also happens to be Kerry’s Birthday.
One of Kerry’s lifelines is the wisdom of Nelson Mandela, and often reflects upon his thoughts and actions.