Our Year 12 students have returned from their CAS trip to Cambodia and I have enjoyed hearing about their adventure and experiences. As a school, our Year 12 students have been visiting the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) schools and Camp Beng Pae for numerous years.
Our students had the opportunity to learn about the recent tragic history of Cambodia, their culture, food and engaged with the locals there. Before the trip, our Year 12 students raised money not only for ISF and the community, but also for a flagpole for the local school in Beng Pae in memory of Mr Ryan Tilley. Mr Tilley had visited the schools and community in the two years that he was at BISS and had a great impact on our students, teachers on the trips.
Here are some quotes from the teachers which led and accompanied the students:
“As a year group, they were all very kind, lovely and understanding towards each other. They were all very involved in all the activities that they did, approaching them with positivity and there was no moaning about what they had to do or the food or anything.” Elise Rickford.
“A fantastic group to take away! They all worked brilliantly and collaboratively, making sure that everyone was involved and included.” Nadine Le Cornu.
A student reflection of the trip:
During this trip to Cambodia, I learnt about the conditions in which the poorest of Cambodians live in. We visited a poor community which was being helped by ISF in Phenom Penh and there, the Cambodians were living in temporary shelters made of wood and scrap metal, they most of them didn’t have clothes on and were really skinny. We also visited some rural families around our camp (Camp Beng pae) and they most of the families didn’t have access to clean water, healthcare or clothes. The guide told us that the only source of a family’s income came from the father who goes out to the fields to work for $5 a day and 10 days a month. Seeing the women and children living in this state left a very deep impression within my head because living in Shanghai, I am so used to being able to have clean water come out of the tap in which I can use to brush my teeth, I am used to having food on the table when I come home from dinner and I am used to taking a bus to school every morning at 7:10 am when those children may not even have the opportunity to go to school every day. Through seeing these people living in poverty, I learnt that in this world there are many people who don’t enjoy the benefits in which we do in China and learning about the conditions in which they lived in is very special for me as it makes me cherish what I have and what my parents provide for me that much more.
Another thing in which I learnt during my CAS week in Cambodia was about the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot which ruled over Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. We visited a genocide museum within Phnom Penh called Tuol Sleng (also known as S-21). Here, we visited the prison cells in which enemies of the Khmer Rouge regime were kept, we saw the instruments of torture in which the prison guards would use to interrogate their subjects and make them admit to crimes in which they did not commit. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the visit was looking at the pictures of the prisoners that were held within that facility. There were men, women and children, some around our age that have been tortured and killed within the facility and that has left a deep impression on me. This experience was special to me because it allowed me to truly emphasize with those who may be experiencing these very atrocities around the world today in places like Syria and it really pushes me to want to contribute to help fund aid which is going to those war-ravaged places around the world so the people there will not have to suffer like the people under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
One of the people who had a big impact on my CAS experience was our camp manager at Camp Beng Pae, Sun-il. He had a really big impact on me because besides being our guide around the camp and the local community, he was a person who came from a poor community like the one we visited and yet, through his own strength, he has managed to escape the cycle of poverty and is now helping to provide free education to other Cambodian kids who may have been in the same position as he was all those years ago. He is like a role model to me and I really admire his dream of providing for those Cambodian children who can’t afford education and giving back to his community. Another person who had a big impact on my CAS experience was the principal at the rural school near camp Beng Pae. Having visited that school as part of our CAS experience, we learnt that the school had around 8 teachers (including the principal) and was teaching students from age 7 – 11. Seeing how the school was so isolated, I was shocked at how well the school was being maintained. It was then that I realised how hard it must have been for the principal to start the school and keep it running to provide education for these young Cambodian kids and his dedication towards this goal really amazed me and left a deep impression on me.
The most challenging thing that I did during the week was planting trees. At first it was very difficult for me because I have never used a hoe before and didn’t have the right technique when it came to using it. This meant that I had a hard time digging holes for the trees and I would have to take occasional breaks which slowed down my progress. We also had to clear weeds next to the tree and I found this extremely difficult since the trees and the weeds looked very similar and there were many cases where I almost accidentally killed the tree I was supposed to be helping. In the end, I realized that by changing my grip, I could be more efficient in my work and having better communication with my partner allowed us to work quicker and smarter. Also, by taking frequent breaks, drinking lots of water and reapplying sunscreen, I made such that I did not become dehydrated or sunburnt after being out in the sun for so long which was something that I had a hard time dealing with in previous residential trips in the last few years.
After this week in Cambodia, I think I will drink more water because in Shanghai, I hardly drink enough water and I think that by drinking more water, I can become more efficient when I work at school and at home while making sure that my body is healthy. Also, I feel like I would want to donate more to charity or work with charity organisations in the future to help these poor children who have no access to clean water, healthcare and education because it is so essential for their future development and allowing their families to break the cycle of poverty in which they are now stuck in.
After teaching the kids in Cambodia, I realised just how hard it must be for a teacher to teach a classroom of kids because the kids in Cambodia were so energetic and it was hard to get them to follow instructions. However, being with the kids and playing with them was a very fun experience and it really showed me how school is not only a place for kids to learn new things but also a place where kids should have fun. Digging wells and planting trees in Cambodia also made me cherish nature and the clean water in which we have access to in Shanghai as here, there are less and less green spaces available for us to enjoy in the city while clean water is virtually everywhere unlike in Cambodia where only bottled water is safe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this Activities Week in Cambodia and I would like to return there sometime in the future to see what impact our activities have had on the community and to further help provide services such as clean water to the locals living in poverty
Matthew Shih, 12S
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