How the other half live

CANTON Chinese Restaurant owner Vanessa SeeToh surely must be one of Queanbeyan's hardest working women.

She and her husband Charles Tran work year round serving up delicious Chinese, Malaysian and Singaporean dishes to locals.

Once a year they allow themselves a three-week break during April. They shut down their Crawford Street restaurant and take their two sons Jamie, 10 and Jeremy, 6 on an overseas trip.

Vanessa said the break is mandatory. It keeps her sane.

Despite the long hours that come with working in the hospitality industry, the family have decided to spend their annual break on a working rather than recreational holiday. They will be among a group of volunteers helping to build houses in Cambodia.

The family has also invited one of the wait staff, 18-year-old Kayla Blundell to join them on their trip. It will be her first time overseas.

Vanessa said the experience and importance of helping others far outweighs the missed opportunity for a relaxing holiday.

"I thought this would be an eye-opening experience for my children and probably for me too," she said.

"We live so differently. I want my boys to see how other children live and realise how fortunate we are here in Australia. The [Cambodian] children live a simple live but they're still so happy."

The project is organised by the Tabitha Foundation which aims to help communities in a holistic and sustainable way.

The charity provides employment and income to villagers by teaching and selling handcrafted items. They also help families buy land and materials to build a house.

The group of 23 adults and 12 children have committed to constructing at least 12 homes during this trip.

The group has already raised the minimum $20,000 towards the house building project and any left over money will go towards projects like a well to ensure villagers have clean water.

"It's very simple, simple housing. All we need is a hammer and nails. It's very basic housing but compared to what they have now it is luxury I suppose," Vanessa said.

"They say the experience is exhausting and emotional at the same time. The joy of helping others and seeing the smiles on the people that we're helping is all we need to keep us going."

The family will pay for their own travel and living expenses during the trip which begins April 16. Participants were asked to raise a minimum amount of $1500 towards the house building project.

The restaurant's wait staff gave up their tips contributing more than $400 to the kitty. A further $800 was donated by the boys' school St Gregory's Primary School who held a mufti day for them.

"It will be a learning and enlightening experience for us," Vanessa said of the trip.

"We make donations and fundraise but we haven't been over and done the hard manual labour.

"In a way giving money is easy but to go over and be physically involved is very different. To help people in this way, it comes from the heart."

Donations can be made in person at Canton Chinese Restaurant at 232 Crawford St or online at www.tabitha.org.au. Please include 'Supporting Canton Chinese Restaurant' in the comment section when donating.

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