Experience of a Lifetime
On Sunday 2 December, our group of 19 students and three teachers flew to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We were all extremely excited to start a trip following all the rigorous fundraising and planning.
After our two flights, we were greeted by our Tour Guide . . . and the humid weather.
Our first two days in Phnom Penh included an orientation with the Tabitha Foundation to discuss the importance of the Foundation and how it has benefited millions of people across Cambodia, along with watching a dance performance by Cambodian Living Arts founded by a genocide survivor. We visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields, to learn about Cambodia’s devastating history. The gruesome nature of the violence that happened was on full display, and although it was confronting for most, it was important in understanding the reasons Cambodia still required aid from the international community.
The next part of our trip was a five-hour bus ride to Battambang a rural area, where we stayed for four days, and where the house building component of the trip was going to take place. This was the most anticipated and crucial part of our tour, as it was the main reason everyone signed up, and were working towards. The two-day project involved an early morning pickup from the hotel to arrive at the building site where we would hammer nails all day – which was much harder than it looked. Our lunch break was PB & J baguettes and tons of cold water, because the weather was extremely hot and we were out in the sun the whole day. Nail by nail the houses were completed and finally we were ready to hand over the 10 houses to 10 families. It was rewarding to know our efforts had contributed to something greater and that this small community was grateful and extremely happy. It was an amazing and unforgettable day for all of us.
After this, we drove to the tourist capital of Cambodia, Siem Riep, were we partook in a Village Project, saw Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom and participated in an ‘Amazing Race’ activity. The Village project helped us gain insight into the life of the average Cambodian person. We were greeted by our two guides who gave us an orientation and explained the culture and religious traditions of this particular village. We were employed in a multitude of ways, including gardening, painting and teaching, where we had the opportunity to teach Cambodian children at the free English school. At the temples, we learnt about ancient Cambodian religion, various invasions and colonisation and how it’s made the country we see today. The Amazing Race was an awesome way to finish off our tour, as we were able to uncover some of the most important trademarks of Cambodia, all while delivering rice to the Children’s hospital and donating to the Foundation.
We were sad to leave, but going to Cambodia will remain one of the most amazing experiences of all of our lives. The authenticity of the Cambodian culture that we saw on this tour, the impact we all felt we made is a feeling we will carry for the rest of our lives. We are so lucky to have been granted the opportunity to do service at such a young age thanks to Miss Smith, who organised this tour, and we’re sure that all of us have been inspired to continue doing work like this in the future.
Written by Tour participants Simal Adeel and Oorja Verma