Author Archives: busybeeirene

The Challenge 

…is well and truly underway. Whilst Frontiertraveller is still going to be here, I have a wonderful new website specifically focusing on The Challenge. This will assist me in fundraising the ¬£50,000 target for the two charities that I have chosen to support – The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Julia’s House which is a children’s hospice. Please sponsor me at I very much hope that you will continue to support me at I look forward to sharing this amazing journey with you and as before, who knows where it will take us!


What’s next…

Since returning from volunteering in Cambodia, time has passed quickly and I began to think of how I could follow such a humbling experience. However, inspiration was not far away and my forthcoming venture is going to be monumental. I am planning to play my bagpipes in each of the seven continents on a single trip around the world. I will be travelling over 50,000 miles in 50 days for charity with a target of 50,000 pounds in early 2016.

I intend to put my heart and soul into this challenge to achieve my target and I will be posting updates to keep everyone informed and involved as I go, so watch this space!

1,968 hours later…

So I am back here sitting at the kitchen table with my family, having made sense of everything.
Without a doubt it has been an incredible, heart rendering and uplifting journey for me. I have crossed paths with the most amazing and interesting people who make such a positive difference to the everyday world that we live in.
“Life hangs on a very thin thread and the cancer of time is complacency. If you are going to do something, do it now. Tomorrow is too late.” – Pete Goss.
I want to thank Sammy James Dodds for helping to improve my photographic knowledge and for taking the ‘arty’ shower photo.
I am so appreciative of everyone who followed my blog. I knew that I was sharing the experience with you all as it was happening!
I would like to thank Lily and Ella for all the encouragement and support they gave me and for taking care of everything while I was away.
Finally, thanks to Harry for helping with this video which was such fun to make and an everlasting memory.

HOPE AND BEYOND with London Grammar by Irene Robinson.


I am at Phnom Penh airport, post my travels in Asia and homeward bound.
Travelling with only different experiences to look forward to and with no specific agenda is exhilarating and right up my street. I have been on every conceivable mode of transport whilst making my way through Laos and Thailand. The culture differences are greater and more noticeable than I had expected and I missed my outgoing Cambodian friends but this only meant that I worked harder at interacting to glimpse what is underneath the surface of the many different, colourful people I met along the way.
This is Nod at Mae Hong Son early in the morning, getting ready for the day. I had been travelling since 4am and I was feeling cold and unwell, she insisted that I sit by their fire with my coffee.

This is Mawae from the Karen Hill tribe, originally from Myanmar who shared her story with me. She has three children, the youngest aged five years old has recently started school and has now declined to wear the rings around her neck (which are a sign of beauty as the neck appears elongated) as she found it too difficult to play with the other children.

I had a deep and meaningful conversation with Nelson who owns the last bar on the river called Roots in Pai. He made me laugh, he said so many people arrive at the point where they look and then turn back, not me though! He said that the most important thing in life “is to wake up in the morning” and at that moment I totally agreed with him.

I want to thank all the volunteers at Hope who encouraged me to go travelling, it was fascinating and I have memories that will live with me forever.

This tree has been designed as a representation of Khmer handicrafts and artisan work.
Happy Christmas from Phnom Penh airport!

Hope and beyond

My final day at Hope has come and I have said goodbye to the Gryffindors and the Penquins. I took the lessons on my own (Anna and Gemma are away) and it was poignant as I thought back to my very first lessons with them both.
The Penquins are such a happy bunch and as I gave them gifts they had written letters for me. Raksmey came to class on Wednesday and via Vannack explained that he has been doing Khmer school work, we have realised now that he has some difficulties with learning but he has extra help at the other school, which is brilliant as usually these issues are not acknowledged even though they are evident. We have developed such a close bond that I was thrilled that he came back before I left.


I had such a fun and noisy lesson with the Gryffindors (below), playing games and singing but towards the end when I talked about how I felt about leaving and what I thought of them you could hear the silence. It totally took me by surprise and I felt that they were united in their despondency, I assumed that it was because there are no opportunities here and so I talked about hope with a lump in my throat. As I stopped talking they didn’t move so I walked towards the door to give them all hugs.

The journey through Hope has not been a roller coaster but a continuous flow of changing emotions increasing in intensity as I have gained understanding of their culture and above all their difficulties. With each passing week I have gained more insight and my admiration holds no bounds for they are wonderful, generous, happy people and they are always smiling, it has been a privilege for me to have spent time with them and a very humbling experience for which I am truly grateful.
The Purpose of Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
“Whether we are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, whatever our nationality, colour, social status or ideology may be, the purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

Vannack, Jason (centre) and Lena.
Jason is an inspiration to all and from his vision has created Hope agency, which he is constantly striving to improve with new ideas.

I am now looking forward to continuing my journey in Asia, backpacking with new friends in Thailand and Laos, seeing other cultures and meeting people from all walks of life.

The local orphanage

This morning, myself, Zoey and Robbie went to the orphanage. Mr Tree beeped the horn on the tuk tuk as we arrived and the kids came rushing out excitedly, mirroring our feelings!
Zoey was armed with bananas and treats and I brought footballs, balloons, bras and an old hat of my mother’s. It was all action straight away; the older boys pumped up the footballs and the young ones ploughed into the bananas, a young girl began to plait Zoey’s hair with flowers.


I went into the girl’s dormitory to offer them the bras, we had a lovely time and a good laugh, one of the girls asked for the hat and she’s wearing it in the photo.

Mr Tree let them all clamber in the tuk tuk and then set off, going round and round in circles, I was frantically running behind as my pipes were sliding around on the back seat, he stopped for me to get on, and off we went again.

One of the boys asked me to play as he told me that he’s learning the saxophone (he sat beside me) and it went down a treat.

When I went back to see the girls after playing my pipes, they had tried the bras on and were laughing pointing to the girl’s who they fitted. They were genuinely happy for each other and I was so happy for them.
Before leaving I was asked to play again, which of course I did but only after encouraging them to clap along.
Finally we had a group photo, it was a real coming together moment for all of us.


Hope’s ducks

An eventful week!
Jason has been planning to have ducks here for some time, in fact the duck house was built last year by Dusty. He’s been a previous project manager here as a volunteer and now lives in Phnom Penh. His daughter, a teacher in England recently fund raised two hundred pounds to buy the ducks amongst other needed items.
Manual labour has been the order of the day, from removing a massive tree trunk to digging a small pond and starting to build a shady area. Adequate fencing has been put in place to keep the dogs out.
Jason will have an idea and then somehow it happens. As an example we have put the posts in for the shady area but they weren’t cut to size first, so they are all different lengths! But there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be fine.

The fifty three ducks were collected from the duck farm on Wednesday evening and are now settled. They will be looked after until it’s time for them to be sold thus providing a much needed income. The building work has already begun for another duck house and sixty more ducks are arriving shortly, there will eventually be two hundred in total.
We stretched the Gryffindor’s this week by moving them out of their comfort zone encouraging them to construct their own sentences rather than relying on the text. We were impressed by their efforts, everyone tried but it still remains difficult for some of them.
The Penguins are amazingly keen and eager to learn. They love reading their story books and they all want to read out loud. It’s a great confidence boost for them. Gemma came this week who is a pre school teacher from Australia and has joined my class. She has been giving Raksmey some individual support but unfortunately we haven’t seen him for three days and I miss him. I believe that he lives a long distance away and maybe he is helping with the rice harvesting but situations here are accepted and not questioned.
I took these photos whilst walking in the rice fields near the school, it is interesting to watch the rice being harvested and all the family play a part.



On Friday afternoon after my lesson with the Penquins (under the shelter) I introduced the bagpipes to them of course with my usual howling companions it was quite a racket but pretty surreal was the other volunteer’s reactions!


Crabs, monks and plankton!

Kep Crab Market “is a little piece of authentic Cambodia”. The market is an oceanside cluster of rickety old wooden shacks hugging the water’s edge and it has a great feel to it.



Koh Tunsay (Rabbit Island) is located in The Gulf of Thailand about five kilometres south of Kep. It is hilly, covered with coconut palms and dense jungle. Five of us walked around three quarters of the perimeter in flip flops! Chris managed to complete, he said at times that he was on all fours and battling with the coral. When we came across an isolated hut where a local fishing family lived, we hired their fishing boat for ten dollars to take us back to the main beach.
It is underdeveloped so there are only basic huts and some restaurant shacks but fresh fish in abundance and a plateful of shrimps caught that morning costs five dollars.


I had been speaking to these monks earlier in the day but when they walked along the beach I couldn’t resist asking them for this unique photo. I don’t suppose that they have any idea how many people are going to see it!
One of the highlights of the weekend was going swimming after the generators were turned off at midnight, when the plankton create an amazing colourful underwater light show.

Irene’s legacy

All my senses came together whilst piping early this morning! The paddy field where I play was being ploughed, the dogs although initially howling settled, children were sitting on the bank and in the distance rice was being harvested. There was a moment when everything was ‘in tune’ and I was in the zone!

Today we have upgraded from bucket shower to power shower, well that’s what it feels like! If I had realised that all I had to do was make the suggestion I would have done it sooner but anyway it’s my legacy that I am leaving to Hope.

Sad news, I am losing a Gryffindor! Srey Pou has made a decision to support her friend and is moving to her class so although I will still be able to keep an eye on her, she is a real character and will be hugely missed.