MANLY first grade cricket legend Tim Cruickshank underwent a life changing experience after losing his contract with NSW in 2013 and visiting Cambodia.
He joined club stalwart Mike Pawley on the trip and felt instantly attached to the country- and more specifically to its kind and gentle inhabitants.
“It gives you a different perspective on things, I thought my life was tough when I lost my contract,” Cruickshank said. “But the kids over there are basically doing their best to get through each day.
“Ever since I went there I felt a connection with the people.”
The upshot has been that the Manly cricket club through Cruickshank are now sponsoring six young Cambodian teenage girls from very poor rural backgrounds up north near the Thai border.
They are helping the girls achieve a better life by providing funds for their high school education as well as living expenses.
Instead of the usual start of season player’s party, the club held a special function at Manly Oval which raised $12,000 to support the girls. One of the most generous benefactors was Manly Test bowler Steve O’Keefe.
Each girl receives $2000 a year which includes $3 a day for food, a weekly $2.50 spending allowance and the remainder for their education.
The program is all overseen by the Happy Days Cambodian Village School Inc, the charity that Pawley founded.
“Their parents have no money, no nothing and they were destined to go nowhere,” Pawley said.
“But now the girls have a chance to have a life with a decent job and get enough money to keep their parents out of the grave a bit longer than otherwise.”
The wheels were set in motion when Cruickshank, Manly’s highest ever run scorer, met the six teenagers on a trip back to Cambodia last year.
“I asked Mick how much it would cost to get the girls out of the village and into town and set them up with accommodation and at school,” Cruickshank said.
“I promised him I would get the money and we held the fundraiser and got it together with no issues at all.”
The girls attend Hun Sen High School in Siem Reap, sharing a 10-bedroom home with a guardian and nine other girls in similar circumstances.
“They never had electricity, they had never seen a car before,” Cruickshank said, “The little things really blow you away- we took them to a shopping centre one night and they saw escalators and didn’t know what was going on, they were riding them like it was an amusement park.
“They walked into an air conditioned building and this cold air hit their skin and they were like ‘what is that’.”
Cruickshank, who is now coaching at Manly, gets a great deal of satisfaction from his involvement with the program.
“I probably didn’t expect to get that attached to be honest,” he said.
“It is easy to get back here and into your way of life and forget about it.
“Spending a week a year there does you the world of good.
“I remember Mick said to me when I first went over when you get older, giving to other people is what makes you happy.
”When you are younger you probably find that hard to understand, but I see what he means.”