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Tara-World Vision 2018 Cambodia Service Learning Tour.
From 8-18 December 2018, 16 of our intrepid Year 9 students will experience the customs, culture, history and hospitality of the Cambodian people. We will visit sights which tell of the rich historical and cultural heritage of Cambodia, and of the harrowing events of the Khmer Rogue dictatorship of the 20th century and its lasting impact on the country. We will visit development and aid projects in Phnomh Penh, Battambang, Basedth and Pursat. We will be giving a daily update of our adventures here on this blog. Stay tuned.
Today was a very early, jam packed, and hectic day. Day 1 of Cambodia started off with a 6am start and a long bus ride to the Sydney international Airport. Even with everyone being very tired we managed to get into the spirit as we were all laughing and cracking jokes on the way to our departure.
As we arrived at the airport most of us enjoyed buying snacks, and browsing the shops before our long 9 hour flight.
Once we boarded the flight we were excited about the in-flight entertainment as we were able to watch many movies, tv shows, and listen to catchy music.
As the hours passed by we experienced eating the somewhat decent airplane food and continued the long flight.
When we finally landed in Thailand everyone was overjoyed but also overly tired. After we passed through security we all relaxed and waited patiently for our exciting flight to our final destination: Phnom Penh.
Whilst all of us were very keen to get to bed we had a one hour bus ride awaiting us. Although most of us were dreading the long bus ride we were fascinated by the amazing sites and the different style of living.
Day 1 of Cambodia was long but was also an unforgettable experience. It was a great day that all of us will never forget and it was an exciting way to start off our Cambodian adventure.
To kick off our first full day in Cambodia, we all woke up early and went down to enjoy a nice breakfast at the hotel. After we finished eating, we all headed up to our rooms for a little rest and then went up to the roof to have a security briefing where we all went over general safety for the trip ahead.
Next, we all walked to the Russian markets and while walking, we all got to experience the non-existent road rules that Cambodia has. When we finally arrived at the Russian markets, we got to par take in some classic haggling where we bargained with the locals to get the best price for the items that we were purchasing! A little while after, we went to a local restaurant for lunch where we got to enjoy some delicious food and drinks.
The next activity planned for the day was going to visit the temples, which we travelled to in a joyous tuk tuk ride. Going to the temples gave us a wonderful opportunity to learn a little about Cambodian history and about their royalty. We went to various rooms throughout the tour and got to look at scared royal items which were made out of solid gold and thousands of diamonds. Once we were finished at the temples, it was time to enjoy the sunset cruise. This was a really memorable moment for many as we cruised down Mekong river and got to see some of the slums. This was one of the first opportunities that we got to see what life is like for some of the people here and take a moment to realise that not only that are we so fortunate, but how happy the children were even though they have so little, but to them they have so much. After the amazing cruise, it was time for dinner! The restaurant we went to was a youth training restaurant where we all ate some really nice food and some refreshing drinks to keep us cool amongst the humidity. Many teachers and students put themselves out of their comfort zone and decided to eat tarantulas. While the people who ate them had fun and thought they tasted like fried chicken, the rest of us were completely terrified and deeply concerned. Inside the restaurant, there was a shop where we had an opportunity to purchase handmade items made by the youth and their parents.
Once we arrived back to the hotels via our tuk tuks, we all grabbed our journals and took a moment as a whole group to de-brief, reflect on the day and think about how the meaning of the word ‘Grace’ has changed meaning to us over the course of this day. After we did this we all took part in a popcorn prayer and then went through the itinerary for Day 3!
To conclude this very eventful day, some girls decided to cool off and enjoy a swim in the pool, while others went up to their rooms to relax and write in their journals. We are all so amazed by this day and we are looking forward to what the rest of the trip has installed for us.
Day 3 of our Phnom Penh stay, consisted of a very emotional and challenging experience. The day started off with an 8:30am departure after breakfast to go to the Killing Fields. The tour was very beautiful in an unexpected way as it was an individual experience where we walked around whilst listening to an audio tour at our own pace. Throughout this tour we got to experience confronting sites and monuments, which made us aware of the terrifying experience that the Cambodians were forced to live through during the Khmer Rouge. We used this as an opportunity to reflect and go through some personal growth as this was a very confronting tour. After enjoying a nice lunch, the group spilt into two and went off to do separate activities which included visiting the S21 Genocide museum and the Cambodian Handicraft Association.
At the S21 museum we continued to learn more about the Khmer Rouge and got to witness the terrible and unfortunate circumstances that the Cambodians faced during that time. This again was a chance to understand Cambodian history in depth and how it has shaped Cambodia to be what it is today. The other activity consisted of a light hearted and joyful experience with the lovely people at the CHA - Cambodian Handicraft Association. Here we sat through a lesson on the history of this organisation which helps woman who are disabled due to land mines or polio. We learnt what they are doing to help the handicapped women of Cambodia in today’s society. We also got to purchase handmade items and witness the manufacturing of the products from the women. This experience was very much needed to add some happiness to our very emotional day.
After this, we headed to the Central Markets using Tuk-Tuk, were we used our confident haggling skills and got to spend some more money (sorry parents) buying souvenirs such as bracelets and clothing. To conclude the night we enjoyed a nice dinner and then went back to the hotel to debrief and do more bible study.
The day started with a very early wake up and breakfast as we had a very big day ahead of us. After a 2 hour bus ride, we arrived at Area Development Project (ADP). This is the world visions head office for project development in Cambodia. Whilst at the office, we learnt about World Visions constitution to Cambodia’s communities. After this, we arrived at a reading camp, where we had the opportunity to interact with small children and give them gifts such as coloured pencils and books. This was a main highlight as this was the first time we got to hang around kids on the trip. We taught them different songs such as “heads, shoulders, knees, and toes” and we also sang them the Tara Blessing which they enjoyed very much.
Next we went to visit a primary school where we got to meet older children and teaching staff. This gave us the opportunity to interact and ask questions to different people involved such as the teachers. We were fortunate enough to enjoy refreshing coconut water which was provided by the children. After we enjoyed our drinks, we painted a personalised mural which consisted of painting our hands and transferring them on the wall.
To wash our hands, we used the water facility provided by World Vision which was a good reminder of World Visions work and contribution to Cambodia’s schools and communities. To continue the day, we travelled to a small village after a nice lunch where we got to see a rain water drainage system that was installed by world vision only recently! Soon after seeing this, it started to rain hard and fast so we all huddled for shelter in the little community centre hut. However, we didn’t let this damper our mood as this was an excellent opportunity to play with a ball with the children and even teach them the ‘hokey pokey’.
To conclude the outdoor activities we walked over to the family celebration centre where we got to hear from the locals about what world vision has done to help them. When we were finished we all headed for dinner and some delicious dumplings! At night we all had a debrief and then split up into small groups and prayed about our day and more. This day was very eventful and had a big impact on many and we are so looking forward for tomorrow!
Today the girls did not have to wake up as early as yesterday.
After eating a delicious breakfast, we headed off to the World Vision Head Office in Cambodia. We were given customised bracelets with our names on them made by the youth at the church we later visited and who kindly provided us with lunch. At the World Vision Head Office, we were given shirts that we could wear.
We then got back onto the buses to visit a reading camp. We painted a mural for them and made craft out of paper and stickers.
After leaving the reading camp, we were taught how to make bracelets at the Church. We really appreciated how much effort the youth put into making everybody a customised bracelet and the amount of time it would have took.
We continued our journey to a slum and walked through it. Many of us were shocked that even though it was a slum, the children were so incredibly happy and were grateful for everything that they had. It made the girls rethink everything they were lucky to have and this experience will hopefully stay with them forever. We said goodbye to the children and their families and headed off to another program.
The final program that we visited today was the Celebrating Families Program. We got to see an actual class in action and see how the parents are taught to treat to their children and spouse. It was very good as violence can be a major issue in some families in Cambodia. This program influences the Cambodian children in a positive way as they see how their parents treat each other and treat them, which will help show them what to do when they eventually have their own families.
Today was an amazing day and many learnt a lot from the programs that we visited.
The day began with a very early start again as we moved to another hotel slightly closer to Siem Reap.
The group got onto bigger buses and we began our long journey to a preschool near another World Vision Centre. We learnt about what World Vision does to help young children want to learn and the best environment for learning.
We continued our journey to a Livelihood Project. There we learnt about a lady’s life and how the business she has started with the assistance of World Vision has helped her children and grandchildren and herself live a better life.
After that, we went to the Agriculture Cooperative. There we saw young girls performing a traditional Cambodian dance. More than 100 families work together in the Agriculture Cooperation and now they are bringing in twenty million riel.
Then we quickly had a look at a Water Purification site nearby.
Next, we were very excited to visit a Youth Centre. We learned about a girl in their group who was not allowed to go to school anymore because she needs to help her family earn an income. In January, the group is going to distribute a video informing people on what is happening to try to bring her back to school. We brought a shuttlecock from the markets and had a very enjoyable game of ‘Piggy in the Middle’. We were very sad to leave as we really liked seeing the smiles on the faces of the teenagers.
Today was a great day and we are excited for what is still to come!
Today was a very low key and relaxing day. To start off, we enjoyed a 10am start which was a good sleep in for many, as our days usually start at around 6:30am. Once the day started off, we checked out of our hotel and started our long drive to Battanbang, where we would then have two different options for what activities we wanted to take part in.
The first option was to visit Battanbang Temple and hang around in hammocks for the afternoon. The girls who went on this trip enjoyed their lunch hanging over a lake, as well as walking up 200 stairs to see a beautiful view of a 1400 year old stone temple, breathtaking scenery, and the lake. However, the other option was more low key and relaxing. This consisted of having a swim in the hotel pool and going to a cafe across the road for lunch. The girls who took this option enjoyed a beautiful lunch and then frappes as a desert.
Regardless of what activities everyone did, day 7 was a relaxing and very fun day where we enjoyed ourselves.
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