In December 2016, my class from Hong Kong Academy and I traveled to Cambodia for our “Learning outside the Classroom ” trip. My experience traveling to Cambodia can be described as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Over the course of a week we experienced the Khmer culture of Cambodia by learning some basics of the language Khmer, learned about the history of Cambodia including the genocide, and got to taste traditional Khmer food.
The second day in Phnom Penh was one of the most emotional throughout the trip. This was the day we toured the killing fields and S21, the school that had been turned into a torture chamber during the Cambodian Genocide. I learned a lot about the Khmer Rouge and how they killed millions of people because their motto was “it’s better to kill innocent people than to accidentally spare the lives of enemy.” It was very hard to walk around the school especially when we met some victims who were still alive. The victims were selling autobiographies that told their stories and taking pictures with people. I will never forget how affected people are still affected by the genocide even today. Later that day we expressed how we felt through art counseling at an NGO. It was an interesting way of dealing with our emotions but made everyone feel better in the end.
After a couple days in Phnom Penh we traveled by car to Kampong Cham where we would be starting our service work through the non-political NGO called Buddhism and Society Development Association (BSDA). Our service work consisted of laying bricks to make a wall of a school, farming, and building a flowerbed and planting flowers for the children. This work was very rewarding because we got to see the physical progress that we were making to help the kids in Cambodia. We were helping them build brick walls to the classrooms. Prior to this project the walls were just made out of bamboo which did not provide enough security towards the students because there were many people breaking into the school rooms.
The last day of our service was the most rewarding day of our trip. This was the day we watched a musical dance performance by the students that we had helped build their classroom. The music and dancing was amazing because you could see the smiles on the cambodian children’s faces. We also had a chance to dance with the children and it was really fun because they weren’t shy and they were holding our hands and trying to talk to us in English. I am sure they are always excited to see any new people coming to do service at their school because they can practice their english.
This trip to Cambodia has made me realise how lucky we are to live in a mostly developed country. There are so many people living in the world who do not have everything that they need or want. Although there are many people who are less fortunate in the world they still somehow manage to be happy, have a smile on their faces, and be grateful for their family and everything they have.