Filming for a National Geographic documentary series wrapped up in Siem Reap two weeks ago following the departure of Morgan Parker, a Hong Kong-based luxury retail guru and president of regional shopping mall planners Taubman Asia.
Australian-born Parker is partway through a 10-country motorcycle ride through Southeast Asia, and the as-yet unnamed docco is influenced by the BBC series Long Way Round starring Ewan McGregor.
Parker told 7Days that the Wheel2Wheel NGO documentary project aims to draw attention to the work of a different NGO in each of the countries he visits, with each organisation featuring in a one-hour episode of the series which will air on the National Geographic channel later this year.
Parker, who has also worked as an investment banker and property developer in Hong Kong, started Wheel2Wheel in 2009.
He said he had been thinking of setting out on a transcontinental motorcycle trip since 2006 as part of a “mid-life enlightenment” before deciding to combine the expedition with philanthropic work.
“Three years after I first had the idea I started becoming more philanthropically active, and I was giving away a set proportion of my income to charities. It occurred to me I should be putting that money to use in a way I thought was creating the maximum possible benefit.”
Parker eventually settled on the idea of self-funding a documentary series offering handpicked charities the opportunity to impress a global audience with their work and then reap the fundraising benefits of their increased publicity.
After spending two years planning the trip and selecting 10 charities to support, Parker set out on his 20,000-kilometre expedition, leaving Hong Kong on March 1 and passing through China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand before arriving in Cambodia just over one month later.
For the Siem Reap leg of his trip, Parker and the nine staff at Wheel2Wheel selected New Hope, an NGO active in Cambodia since 2007, as the featured charity out of an initial list of 30.
“During pre-trip planning we spent around $100,000 which includes money spent vetting all 10 charities. I can’t speak highly enough about the principles at New Hope and how they’ve impressed me.”
Parker told 7Days that Wheel2Wheel has already raised over $160,000 for the charities involved in the project and that he has a fundraising target of $1 million over the next seven months.
Before leaving Siem Reap after the completion of five days of filming at and around New Hope’s school in Mondul 3 village, Parker was joined by his seven-year-old daughter Aria who flew in for a visit.
He said: “My mother brought Aria out because of Angkor Wat and the beauty of Siem Reap.”
A 10-episode series based on the Wheel2Wheel expedition will screen on the National Geographic channel later this year.