Southland Travel Agents’ Mission to Help Cambodian Orphans
Posted by Fleur Revell
A Southland couple’s travel tours to Cambodia have inspired them and their clients to help support a local group of 90 orphaned children.
Tony and Tracey Laker, who own and operate House of Travel Lakers Invercargill, take a group of Southland travellers on a two-week trip through Cambodia and Vietnam each year, and include a stop at a Phnom Penh orphanage that they have developed close ties with.
The Invercargill travel agents encountered the poverty-stricken orphaned children three years ago on their first tour to the region.
“The children came on board the riverboat, which we charter to cruise on the Mekong Delta, to dance and raise funds for the orphanage,” explains Tony Laker. “Tracey & I were just blown away by their happiness and enthusiasm, and decided to find out more about their circumstances.”
Home to around 90 children, the orphanage was struggling for funds, and lacked even an operational toilet and shower block.
“They only had the most basic necessities of food and clothes, but they were some of the happiest kids we’d ever seen,” says Laker. “We just really wanted to put a ray of sunshine into their lives.”
For the past three years, the travel-loving pair have given personal financial support to the orphanage, and have contributed funds for the manager – a former orphan herself – to build a brand new ablutions block.
“We also visit the orphanage with our tour groups, and before leaving New Zealand we get together to discuss what gifts we can take,” explains Laker. “Everyone on the tour brings along toys, colouring pencils, and books for the kids – we feel like Father Christmas when we arrive.”
“It’s something unique and special that we include as part of the tour because we know that Southlanders do appreciate seeing the way they can help these children, and it’s a really joyful place to visit after some of the more difficult sights such as the Killing Fields that we visit.”
Laker says the 16-day Vietnam and Cambodia tour, which runs again in November this year, is always popular with locals, along with other escorted tours including one to Canada and Alaska in August, and a ‘Farming & Footy’ Tour to the Rugby World Cup in England and Wales in September.
“While Southland travellers still enjoy visiting traditional spots such as the Gold Coast, the UK and Europe, they are also very open to new experiences further afield, and they do love the stress-free option that our escorted tours offer,” says Laker.
The House of Travel Lakers Invercargill team’s dedication to travel also saw them rewarded with a total of eight supplier top sales awards at the recent House of Travel 2015 Awards, which represented the majority of the awards on offer.
For more information, seehttp://www.houseoftravel.co.nz/hot-stores/otago-southland/lakers.