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‘They've never seen the ocean’ - Kiwi family helps to build camp for Cambodian children

A Kiwi family is behind the first Cambodian camp designed for children in poverty.

Camp Shalom Valley is set to open at the end of the year for underprivileged kids, churches, schools and NGOs.

The Asian nation's one of the world's poorest, still recovering from decades of war and destruction.

Thirty-five per cent of people live in poverty and a further 21 per cent are vulnerable to poverty.

Auckland couple Craig and Nayhouy Greenfield came up with the idea as a project for Alongsiders International.

The pair launched the Christian organisation in 2003, three years after Craig left a corporate career in the technology sector, to move into a Cambodian slum.

The Alongsiders’ mission is to help poor and vulnerable children, by equipping others in the community to buddy up with someone.

Craig Greenfield gave up his career in technology to move to a Cambodian slum where he’s helping impoverished children.

"So practically what that means is we ask them to choose one child each as a little brother or little sister in their own community, whether that's a slum community, in a rural village or in another type of community" Mr Greenfield said.

Their programme works across seven provinces of Cambodia, as well as in Indonesia and India.

With his team, Mr Greenfield’s secured five hectares of land less than a kilometre from the seaside in the town of Kep, to hold camps for those they support.

“Camp is something most of us took for granted when we were growing up” Mr Greenfield said.

“But for many of these children, growing up in Cambodian slums and rural villages, it'll be the first time ever to feel the sand of a beach between their toes.

“It'll be the first time ever they see the ocean.”

The campsite will be able to accomodate 500 people.

It’s nestled at the base of the Lieu Mountain, also known as 'Mount Hiding Place', where local people fled for refuge from the Khmer Rouge and from B52 bombers during the Vietnam war.

Alongsiders hopes to turn that history around, building a place of peace or ‘Shalom’.

Its intention is to be a place of “healing and restoration in a country that has known too much suffering”.

"If you can imagine being in a slum, you're in a tin shack, it's concrete, there's noise and that's all youve ever experienced and then you come to a place that there's peace, there's nature, there's the ocean" Mr Greenfield said.

"For a Cambodian kid that's a very significant experience."

The camp will be environmentally sustainable and will be designed to strengthen Cambodian youth through sports and outdoor education.

It’ll have a swimming pool, zipline and animal care stations, among other things.

The organisation’s had public support to get the camp ready in time for December, raising close to half a million dollars overall.

"We weren't really prepared for the outpouring of support from around the world" Mr Greenfield said.

They've been amazed with the support from Kiwis too.

"We're just so grateful to New Zealanders for coming in behind a project that blesses the children of another nation, that's a cool thing to do and that kind of sums up the Kiwi mentality"

The country’s one of the world’s poorest and is still recovering from decades of war. Source: 1 NEWS