A tribute to Barbara Tavae A tribute to Barbara Tavae

By Kate Shuttleworth -

Our co-founder Kate pays tribute to Barbara Tavae, who volunteered in Cambodia on a teacher trip in 2013.

We are sorry to have to share with our alumni the very sad news that Barbara Tevae (Barb) passed away very recently, after a courageous battle with cancer. Barb joined the Jan 2013 Teaching team in Cambodia and quickly became part of what proved to be a dynamic and close knit group. I know many of you have kept up with each other since, and that Nikki K-J and Barb had a ‘Cambodian’ reunion just a few months ago.

Over the short time I knew her, through the preparation workshops prior to going to Cambodia, and the trip itself, I came to know and greatly respect her for her wonderful generosity of spirit. She exuded calmness and gentleness, and had a genuine warmth to her smile which embraced everyone she met. It is easy for visitors in Cambodia to let Western expectations get in the way of seeing and appreciating the special spirit of the people and place, especially when you are there in what is perceived as an ‘expert’ role as she was. I will remember her as one of the people who really “got it” from a cultural and contextual perspective and who was able to not just deliver expertise, but really leave something valuable behind her for the people she worked with and mentored. She did it with incredible compassion, passion and respect and it is not surprising that she stood out for that. She was not well for a few days when she was there, culminating in a trip to the hospital to get rehydrated. Even that happened quietly and inconspicuously, without drama, and she was back in the classroom the following day, anxious to make up on what she saw as lost time and opportunities. 

Our Cambodian staff received news of her death with great sadness, remembering her well as was to be expected. You did not need to know Barb for long to know that she was a beautiful, gracious and kind person, determined to share what she  had with others, and with a huge love and pride for her family. They will surely be incredibly proud of her, and  miss her terribly. On behalf of everyone at SeeBeyondBorders, we would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to her children and family and our hope that the love and pride of them that she shared with us helps them as they get through the next few months and beyond. Rest in peace Barb, from your Cambodia friends. We are grateful to have shared a special experience with you.

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