Aquinas students in solidarity with Cambodia February 5, 2018

Posted in on February 5, 2018

Bridging the gap

Day 1

Today we worked on a project in a small rural community in Kep, Cambodia.

Our group planned to construct one water gate and two latrines for the families. At first we were nervous because we had never done a project like this before, and we did not want to disrupt the progress that they had already made.

But the men that were leading us were incredibly patient and understanding when we had difficulties, or were a little slow picking up tasks. Despite the language barrier, they taught us more than just basic construction skills.

We were reduced to using hand signals and charades between broken phrases of Khmer and English. We were still able to meet the families and make great connections, especially with the children.

One girl we met made a huge impact on our group, her name was Chai. Chai was very shy when we first arrived at the worksite, but she was very intrigued by the work that we were doing and tried to speak with us. After a few shared smiles and laughs she became more comfortable and brought her brother over to meet us as well. This gave us a real picture of the people we were standing in solidarity with.

Through Vy our interpreter, we were able to learn more about the children’s lives and how the projects impact them and their communities.

It was a day full of hard work, but it was incredibly rewarding.

Jazmin, Emma, Reannah
– DWC Volunteers

Digging Deep

Day 2

Without a doubt, today has been a very impactful and tough day. We are in Kep, Cambodia, and we were assigned to work in a local village to work on latrines and water gates. These past two working days, we have gained a new found respect and understanding for the less fortunate. This was a result of various tasks we were assigned. These tasks were given out to different teacher groups, with rotating schedules.

To begin, our group on day two on the worksite began with constructing the latrine with the locals and our designated teachers. The building of the latrines consisted of smoothing the latrines over the already places bricks and digging the hole that collects the waste. Afterwards, we were relocated to the water gates where we had to cement the walls and lay bricks which surround the concrete cylinder. The locals, being the experts of their land and work, were there to guide us in the right direction.

Even after our struggles, the men leading us didn’t mind to taking time to lend us an extra hand. Not only did they teach us about the construction, but they gave us and insight to their daily lives.

Vy, our well-beloved translator, aided us in understanding the locals.

With her help, we were able to interact with the high schoolers, from “Our School”, who were on the worksite with us for their first time. Meeting the teenagers, the three of us were initially shy and nervous to butcher the language, but despite our language barrier, they always managed to be phenomenally confident with English. Con, an aspiring army member and nineteen-year-old, and sixteen-year-old Meet, who is an aspiring teacher, were introduced to us through Tihm. Tihm is their Khmer/English teacher, helping them become community leaders just like him. Overall, meeting the teenagers made us realize that we have more similarities than differences, for example sharing the same attributes and music taste. As a result of everything, we are extremely glad and appreciative towards the people of the village for their warm welcomes and spirit.

Camila, Fernando, Serena
– DWC Volunteers

The power of Influence

Day 3

Today was the Aquinas students’ last day at the work site. We were able to complete our work on four projects: two latrines and two water gates.
Being at the work site allowed the students to make meaningful connections with the community members in order to understand their lifestyle and daily challenges. The students also got an opportunity to visit a local market. Each group was challenged to feed a family of four with only one American dollar. This activity opened our eyes to the struggle of the local people to support their family on a daily basis. After the work site and eating a delicious meal cooked by a local family, Aquinas was given the privilege to visit an elementary school called “Our School”.
After speaking with the principal, meeting the teachers, and singing with the children, the Aquinas students were able to make connections between Canadian and Cambodian education. On behalf of the students, we believe that everyone on the trip has been touched by Kep. Every students’perspective has been changed and that will influence our future decisions and how we see the world around us. The next stop on our journey is Siem Reap, and we cannot wait to see what else is in store for us on this trip!
Avery, Simon, and Lucia
– DWC Volunteers

Grace and Hope

Day 4

Today we travelled to Siem Reap, Cambodia by airplane from Kep. Once in Siem Reap we rode Tuk Tuk’s to an NGO called Grace House. This organization is a free local school for Cambodian children aged three to 16 to receive an education in English. The school is funded by donations from different sponsors to keep the children learning. It has social workers, food programs and disability classrooms that all work together for the benefit of the students. It runs because of volunteers and paid workers who give time and effort to teach children English to thrive. We thought this school showed us the importance and progress of education in Cambodia.

Then we travelled by Tuk Tuk to another school called New Hope; which is another NGO school used to educate children. At first the leader, Nim, showed us a village called Mohdul, which most of the kids come from in New Hope. The community is severely under developed and is aided by the nearby school. There are water pumps, medical aides, social workers and a variety of assistance coming from New Hope to help not only the kids but the community too. The school itself uses volunteer teachers that teach certain skills like sowing, cooking and computer tech to broaden kids’

knowledge. New Hope covers all costs for families which even includes scholarships for kids to thrive on. We were invited to eat an amazing and delicious dinner done by students who learned at New Hope later on.

We are traveling to Angkor Wat tomorrow and are excited to finalize the days of our eye-opening and wonderful trip so far.

Kelly and Amanda
– DWC Volunteers

Temple tours

Day 5

Today was full of eye-opening events. Our day started off by taking a bus ride to Angkor Wat — the temple on the Cambodian flag. It is the most popular temple in all of Cambodia. It began as a Hindu temple, until a new King came to power, making it now a Buddhist temple. It was under construction for 37 years, creating beautiful architecture. While at Angkor Wat, we got the chance to receive an Om from a monk, an experience we have never encountered. Walking around the temple, we got to see ancient carvings on the stone walls, depicting a war between the gods and demons.

Soon after, we took a bus to the Bayon temple, another Buddhist temple. It was made from scrap stone from Angkor Wat. It was built to be the most secure temple in Cambodia. After the death of the King at the time, the temple was no longer a sacred place. There have been many points of time where heads of statues would be stolen/distorted.

After we ate lunch, we went to the Cambodian Landmine Museum. Our tour guides name is Bill who works very closely with Aki Ra — a CNN hero. Aki Ra was a child soldier stolen from his family at age five, and forced to fight at war at age eight. As he aged, he realized his passion is to make Cambodia a safe place for his people. He has cleared over 50,000 unexploded ordinance. The museum started off in his home until 2007 when the government shut it down. Today the museum is just outside of Siem Reap with 30,000 tourists a year, and 34 Landmine victims living on the property. The museum gives out scholarships to Landmine victims living on the property to university or trade school. There are still millions of landmines undiscovered in Cambodia, injuring at least one person a week.

After dinner we got a chance to walk around the Night Market in Siem Reap.

We got the opportunity to buy clothes and trinkets to bring home to our family and friends. The city is a vibrant place full of life and culture, that was amazing to be apart of even just for a few hours. We have one more day in Siem Reap, then we go to Shanghai and then home.

Cassandra and Kathryn
– DWC Volunteers

Posted in on February 5, 2018