Personal trainer Cheryl Lin shares on her passion and dedication to supporting two non-profit groups in Siem Reap through funds raised from fitness events.
Self-love and self-care – that was what Cheryl Lin felt the fitness industry needed.
After moving back to Singapore from New Zealand, the fitness specialist went on to fill that gap with Eat Train Love (ETL). Through her programme, she uses her passion for teaching to motivate clients through sweaty workouts to help crush their fitness goals and teaches them how to develop a healthy and sustainable relationship with food and exercise.
Also, how to give back. And for that, she created ETL for Good, a pay-it-forward project that raises funds for two beneficiaries in Cambodia: New Cambodian Artists (NCA) and Phum Ou School. The former, a female dance company seeking to spread the message of female empowerment through physical expression, the latter, a school that strives to empower individuals with equal opportunity at education and future employment.
“When I first met the beneficiaries in Siem Reap I didn’t have the capacity to send them a huge donation, but I had time, and I had my classes as a vehicle for fundraising, and so that’s how it all started,” she shares.
“The whole idea behind ETL for Good is challenge for change. That is, for people to use their personal challenges of hitting their training and nutrition goals or completing their first race, engaging in fundraising, and helping to raise awareness for various causes.”
Besides the annual Ang Kor Wat marathon that Cheryl trains a team for every year, she has organised a slew of pay-as-you-wish fitness events, with all proceeds going to beneficiaries. They include run clinics, yoga classes, and large outdoor boot camps like Raise the Roof for Kom Lang Satrey, which was held on the roof of People’s Park Complex to aid an outreach programme by NCA.
The all-rounded personal trainer, yoga and barre instructor opens up about her deep connection to these beneficiaries.
“I resonated a lot with NCA because they deal with female domestic violence, something I have experienced myself.”
When I was 19 and had just moved to New Zealand, my then-boyfriend came back drunk, got upset about something, smashed my whole house with a hockey stick and injuring my leg in the process. There was blood everywhere and I had to call the cops on him.
In another relationship later on, my partner had anger issues and though he never hurt me, he would punch holes into walls and doors. I had anxiety attacks and started to see a counsellor then. I realised that even though I wasn’t being physically hurt, it was still a form of domestic violence, and violence in the home which I shouldn’t tolerate.
“It is truly life changing doing something for someone who can never repay you.”
With our contributions in the first year, the New Cambodian Artists were able to purchase proper dance flooring that they could bring along for outreach programmes and performances. Before that, they would dance on concrete surfaces that were hard on their knees, especially with the intense floorwork involved. We also helped them set up a proper changing room and fixed their roof, which was previously propped up by a ladder and a bucket.
For Phum Ou School, our efforts went into connecting something as basic as electricity to their classrooms – crucial for night classes attended by working adults – to building a community library that is now filled with shelves of books and resources from our kind donors.
This year, the NCA girls will be using the funds raised toward online courses for further education, beyond the tourism and business studies offered in Cambodia, while Phum Ou School will be channelling it toward operational costs and teacher development.
We may never meet these kids that go to the school, or one of the girls who decides to become a doctor someday. But our little efforts changed their lives in a huge way.
“I am incredibly blessed with the support I get along the way.”
Besides having our fundraising events as part of SG Giving Week in 2018, we have also had locations for events generously donated by Asian Civilisations Museum, LePark, Just Co, and Lululemon – which I am an ambassador of. This year, I plan to make an additional trip to Siem Reap to work with the head teacher of Phum Ou School and company manager of NCA on skills like public speaking, as well as vision and goal setting for themselves and the organisation. I’m really grateful that Lululemon will be rendering me support in terms of content for that.
“The friendships I have built with them, and their passion for achieving their dreams keeps me going.”
When you meet the Khmer people, it is just impossible not to leave a piece of your heart there. Both NCA and Phum Ou School are dedicated to improving the lives of their people, changing how the role of women is perceived, giving every single person an equal opportunity at a future of employment. This really motivates me to keep supporting them.