As Australians living in a developed country, we often take so many things for granted. We have clean water, clean streets, great health care services and so much more. Yet how many of us really stop and appreciate these incredible resources we are given?
At the beginning of January, a team of twelve students and three teachers from Oxley Christian College took the brave step to go to Cambodia for ten days. We all felt nervous, anxious and had no idea what to expect. However, as soon as we reached the airport and Cambodia was in arm’s reach, the adventure began and nerves disappeared.
This trip turned out to be an experience which we will never forget.
The culture shock that we experienced on our first day in Phnom Penh was incredible. The roads, the smells, the people and the sheer difference of the Cambodian landscape were all a bit overwhelming.
For the first couple of days of our trip, we were based around Phnom Penh where we were introduced to the history of Cambodia and the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As a group we felt an overwhelming sense of love towards the people of Cambodia. Our hearts went out to victims of this cruel regime when we realised just how much pain, suffering and heartbreak they endured.
One particular historical site which we went to was The Killing Fields. The Fields had an eerie and solemn atmosphere about them as this was the place where the Khmer Rouge killed scores of innocent people (their own people) on the order of Pol Pot. We all experienced a small insight into the reality these people went through, which then changed the whole way we viewed the rest of the trip.
The middle part of the trip was made up of our team visiting many projects throughout the provinces in Cambodia. We all had our own highlights and moments where we were blown away by either the people or the environment.
As a group, however, I believe we all found the distribution of shoeboxes an experience like no other. We went to three different Shoebox Distribution Centres and each had its own unique and personal touch.
Although they were different, they all had one thing in common – happiness. On all the faces of the kids you could see sheer happiness, shock and utter disbelief that this whole box filled with gifts and toys was just for them. The place filled with delighted screams and shouts with everyone trying to tell each other what they got. The air was filled with a sense of bliss and enjoyment, stirring something in all of us.
“A friend once told me ‘I believe that as Australians we are the ones in poverty because we lack social interaction, happiness and the real meaning of life’.”
Another highlight was teaching at a rural school. We all had a different lesson to teach from sport, music, maths and art. Teaching kids who did not understand English was challenging for all of us, however, it worked out perfectly. The kids understood what we were trying to teach and we all bonded with them throughout our lessons.
There are so many more experiences and memories such as painting the water tank, the Maternal and Education Centre and just playing with the local kids.
It is really hard to sum up all that we went through and saw, however, the time in Cambodia was something we will never forget.
It opened our eyes to the reality of life and the things we take for granted.
A friend once told me “I believe that as Australians we are the ones in poverty because we lack social interaction, happiness and the real meaning of life”.
This is so very true. What the Cambodia experience has shown us is that we need to be grateful for the things we have, to care and love for one another and to stop living for ourselves and start living for others.
Becky Hodgkin (12.8)