By Chris Davies, Teacher of Mathematics, Dover Campus
At the end of Term 2, 80 UWCSEA Dover Grade 8 students participated in the 13th History and Global Concerns Trip to Cambodia. This Service trip embodies all that is good about UWCSEA and gave the students a genuine insight into the hardships faced by others and the difference they can make in the world.
On the first day in Cambodia the students learnt about the country’s recent brutal history. The students started by visiting the Tabitha Office where they learnt about Cambodia’s history and the experiences of the Tabitha staff through an ever-inspiring briefing from Janne Ritskes, the founder and director of Tabitha. They then visited the important historical sites of the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. Both are very harrowing places, but they gave students an important insight into Cambodia’s past and why there is a need for the help we were trying to provide.
Over the next two days the students built 40 houses with the Tabitha Global Concern: 20 in Prey Veng Province and 20 in Svay Rieng Province. The students had been looking forward to this part of the trip for several months as throughout the school year they had raised funds to pay for the houses - this year, raising over $80,000. Building the houses in the heat was a very physically demanding job but the handover ceremony at the end, when the houses were formally presented to the families, is a memory that will stay with the students for a very long time.
On the fourth day in Cambodia the students visited either the Punley School in Prey Veng or the Ampil School in Svay Rieng, running activities and playing games with the children in the school. This day was quite challenging for many of our students due to the language barrier, but as the sessions went on they learnt the importance of visual cues and everyone has a lot of fun.
On the final day of the trip the students ran the same activities as the school visit at the Global Concerns project they visited in Phnom Penh: Indochina Starfish Foundation Schools, Wat Chann Heimberg Centre, Sombok Chab Slum Young Leaders Centre, or Tiny Toones. The students also visited the surrounding communities and learnt about the lives of the students they have worked with.
The students (and staff) came back from the trip both physically and emotionally exhausted but they returned with a sense of genuine satisfaction about the work they have done, the lessons they learnt about themselves, and what they can do for other people, which are invaluable as many of them will become the Service and Global Concerns leaders in High School in the coming years.
Said Kate Woodford, UWCSEA's Senior Marketing Manager who joined the trip, "The Cambodia Service trip is an immersive journey through the recent history of Cambodia - hearing first hand about how the country came to be in such desperate need, witnessing the horrors they experienced, then creating hope through the partnerships in the housebuilding and understanding of our shared humanity during the school and NGO visits. I felt privileged to observe this happen; one student expressed a high degree of uncertainty and nervousness the morning of the village school visit, asking how she was going to communicate with students who had no English at the village school and hanging back in the classroom there. And yet, the very next morning, when saying goodbye to the children who had been in her classroom at the ISF 2 school she was in tears as she hugged them farewell. She had an incredibly powerful experience that will no doubt stay with her for the rest of life. What struck me was how the trip allowed our students to witness the positive impact they could make, and recognise that there are things they can do personally to connect with others in their shared humanity, despite their life circumstances being so different."
The UWCSEA Service programme empowers students to become aware, able and active contributors to the community, whether on campus, locally in Singapore or internationally with a project in a developing country. Read about how Service is at the heart of our mission, and service activities a vital part of the learning programme.