Mansfield Courier

Book exchange helps starving Cambodian fishing village

- By CARMEL DIXON

THE Jamieson Book Exchange is funding a new charity to help the Cambodian village of Jon Pierre.

The village of 85 residents is starving amid the turmoil COVID-19 has wreaked on their local fishing-centric economy.

But a former Victoria Police Sergeant, Rod McDonald, and his wife Leyen are looking to turn the tide on the village’s misfortune with a little help from an old friend and some generous Aussie spirit.

Rod is a good friend of Jamieson Post Office owner, former Detective Inspector Wayne Rotherham.

They worked together for many years in Melbourne, during which time Rod was seriously wounded after being shot by notorious bank robber Pavel ‘Mad Max’ Marinoff in 1985.

After receiving the state police force’s highest award for valour, Rod decided to retire to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where he met and married Leyen, who came from the tiny fishing village of Jon Pierre some 14km away.

Unlike Siem Reap, Cambodia’s second largest city, Jon Pierre is not a tourist village and survives predominan­tly by “carrying fish”.

Men, women and children carry fish in bamboo baskets from the lake to the road, where waiting trucks transport the produce to Siem Reap to be sold.

When COVID-19 hit, however, all fishing stopped, markets were forbidden, and villagers were not allowed to leave.

The usually transient village, where makeshift shacks were moved seasonally to avoid flooding, has very few creature comforts at the best of times, with most residents owning only a small earthen-ware stove, a flimsy timber floor and some plastic sheeting for protection from the elements.

When an Australian friend of Rod’s, who is working with an NGO, told him they were attending a murder a day due to residents’ inability to source food for their families, Rod knew something had to be done.

Rod called on his Aussie mates for help, and Wayne Rotherham, who met up with Rod and Leyen when he rode his motorbike through Cambodia before the pandemic hit, acted immediatel­y.

Wayne and the Jamieson Book Exchange have since establishe­d a new charity called the Starfish Fund to help the starving villagers of Jon Pierre.

The name Starfish is based on a parable, where hundreds of starfish were washed up onto a beach and stranded.

A man passing picked one starfish up and placed it in the water, when questioned as to why, he replied “I will make a difference to one, but I cannot save them all”.

The monies collected by the Jamieson Book Exchange will assist in the purchase of supplies to make up food parcels of five kilograms of rice, soy sauce, two packets of noodles and two tins of fish.

Leyen and her friends then make meal packs with the essentials for families who need these lifesaving packages.

Rod said that his friends in Australia have been the lifeline by providing the funds to purchase food and keep the village alive.

People can donate by putting money into the letterbox at the Book Exchange.

 ??  ?? GIFT: Happy residents from Jon Pierre, Cambodia with their rations.
GIFT: Happy residents from Jon Pierre, Cambodia with their rations.
 ??  ?? IN NEED: Rod McDonald with children from Jon Pierre village.
IN NEED: Rod McDonald with children from Jon Pierre village.

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