Posted by | December 14, 2010 | Amy's Blog | No Comments

Small Steps was given a massive step up by some awesome Australians this November. Back in September a family called the Bongiornos, from Melbourne, contacted me to say that they had read about the project in the Melbourne Herald Sun Magazine and they were really inspired by the project. They invited me over to Sydney to screen the film and help fundraise for the project. ‘You know I’m in London right?’ was the first question I asked them. They did and yet they flew me all the way over to Oz!

The Bongiornos operate a family-run Financial Services Company ( Tony and his two amazing daughters Lucy and Amy put on a big conference for their clients in Sydney called New Horizons, where I presented the first first Small Steps: Cambodia film. Through the Bongiornos I met some amazing people from all different fields who wanted to help the project.

However, the trip didn’t stop there – one step was not enough for this family! They then flew me to Melbourne where they put on and funded an entire fundraising evening for the Small Steps Project at the National Gallery of Victoria, where, not only did we screen again but we had the most amazing Celebrity Shoe Auction (you can see all the Aussie celebs who contributed – including Ricky Ponting and Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, on the Celebrity Shoe blog).

The Bongiornos did not let a single detail escape them, the place was packed, the shoes were encased in glass exhibit boxes, there was a professional auctioneer and they even managed to get the project on the news! The whole event and evening was so well put together that they raised an absolutely whopping $12,000!

The help from the Bongiorno family was a huge step for the project in terms of both global awareness and fundraising but it was also a success because of all the small steps involved: the shoes they collected, the staff that all worked at the event, the invitations and the publicity. If the Small Steps UK Celebrity Auction goes as well as the Aussie version we should be able to help literally thousands of children living in poverty on rubbish dumps all over the world.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Bongiornos then flew me to Cambodia so that I could check on the children we helped last year and to investigate whether there was definitely an inhabited rubbish dump in Sihanoukville with more children being forced to survive on waste.

Back in Sydney other Australians were also taking their own small steps. Jen Goodall a new volunteer who had done considerable fundraising for the project, raising over $3000 by running two marathons (and she is a smoker!) asked if she could come and assist me in Cambodia….

Then she put on a small screening in Sydney where photographer and cameraman Simon Lohmeyer  came to see the documentary. On discovering that it was just Jen and I going alone, firstly, to find this other inhabited dump and secondly, to do a project on it… and film it, Simon went out the next day and bought himself a return ticket to Phnom Penh. He then came and worked, filming and doing all the photography for the week.

And what luck he took that step, because, on arriving in Cambodia we found a terrible dump, where there were hundreds of children and families, completely isolated from the nearest town. Not only did they not have shoes but they didn’t have any food or mosquito nets or, well, anything really. Anything that you or I have: soap, water, food, a bed, a roof. It was incredibly upsetting and humbling.

Had Jen not volunteered to come and help and had Simon not flown over to film, we would not have been able to do such an amazing project, helping hundreds of children and their family’s nor would we have the next documentary.

Find out what happened in Cambodia in the next blog Sihanoukville Project 2010.