BY SABAH FRY
After the completion of our year twelve exams a group of 49 excited students, teachers and leaders from Cohuna, Kerang and Darwin travelled to Cambodia. For many, including myself it was our first overseas adventure.
We spent a week in Siem Reap and a week in Phnom Phen. I remember stepping off the plane and almost finding it hard to breathe, the air felt so thick and so hot. Everything seemed different, the roads were just dirt, they drove on the opposite side of the road, there seemed to be no traffic laws, and definitely no health and safety rules as they used sticks and ropes to create scaffolding!
Whilst being able to experience the culture of a new country we were also able to help and give something back to the people who needed it the most! We began our first project at the Life and Hope Orphanage. We worked on two projects at once, a bike shed and a garden shelter. If we were to complete these tasks in Australia it may have taken half a day to a day at the most, but without the use of any power tools or wheelbarrows it took us three days of hard physical labour as we were forced to do everything by hand. This was the hardest physical work I have ever endured. The importance of what we were doing was truly displayed when the entire village showed up on their bikes to pick up their monthly supply of rice. The journey to the orphanage was a task in its self as the road was in such a terrible state; it took us over 40 minutes to travel down the 5km road. By working in the orphanage we were able to also interact with the children. It was amazing to see how children who basically had nothing and had gone through so much in there short lives managed to constantly have a smile on their faces and were happy.
We were able to participate in a second project that was organized by the Tabitha Foundation. Through this project we were able to build 11 new houses for 11 families! When we arrived the frame was up and the roofs were on but we had to hammer down each individual piece of bamboo to the frame to create the floor and put the walls up. Whilst these were very basic homes compared to the ones that we all have, it was definitely an upgrade and it meant that 11 families now had a roof over their heads and somewhere safe to sleep.
We spent a day visiting the temples and markets of Angkor Wat. They were all simply amazing. We were able to walk though and look at almost every thing. It was incredible to think that something so large and detailed had been built so many years ago.
We were able to visit the Green Gecko Orphanage. The orphanage was set up by an Australian man to give some of the children living and working on the streets of Cambodia a safe place to live and to get an education. The children could all understand basic English. It was incredible to see how these children had turned their lives around. By hearing many different personal stories we were given an insight into how hard their lives once were.
We travelled by boat to Phnom Penh. This was a long day as it took us over 6 hours to travel 135km. There was so much more traffic here but at least the roads were sealed.
Visiting the Killing Fields was one of the most overwhelming experiences of the trip. Walking though the field, listening to the audio tour we became aware of the huge amount of cruel and inhuman treatment that many Cambodians endured at the time. Walking along the paths you could see remains of victims’ bones and clothes.
One night we were able to visit a Street Kid’s restaurant. In doing this we were able to taste some local cuisine. We were able to try frog, ants, buffalo and eel. These were all interesting but surprisingly tasty.
By traveling to Cambodia and participating in these two projects I have been given a much greater appreciation of our country, what i have and how truly lucky I am to be an Australian.