GAP 2019 - Student Perspective from Cambodia 9
“Fun party,” says Charli, a student who went on the Cambodia 9 Global Action Program (GAP) trip, when asked to sum up the trip in a couple of words. I think it is safe to say that many other students on the trip agree with the “party” in that phrase. “Tiring party,” Jiya adds. “Exciting party,” George says. I personally was not too eager to go on this trip at the beginning. On the bus ride to the airport, all I could think about was that there were seven more days until I would be back in my home, lying in my own bed and with my family. However, this amazing trip soon pushed all those worries out of my head.
As soon as we arrived in Siem Reap, we went straight to a school, run by an organization named HUSK, where we got a briefing about how we would be teaching children English for the next three days. HUSK teaches children how to speak English, so they may have the opportunity to obtain jobs in tourism when they grow older. HUSK has made their school very progressive in numerous ways. The classrooms were all made from plastic bottles stuffed with plastic until the bottles became sturdy, stacked up, and covered with cement. They came up with this environmentally friendly way to use their plastic. This was not the only advancement made by HUSK. Women’s rights are a problem in Cambodia, so HUSK ensures women jobs in their classrooms, and in sewing bags and toys for their gift shop. Water-borne disease is another big problem in Cambodia, and HUSK is already one step ahead in doing their part to reduce deaths by water-borne diseases. The bathrooms in the school are flushed not with water, but by scooping rice husk into the toilet bowl. If the toilets were flushed with water, the waste would go into rivers, polluting the water that many citizens drink. “It’s amazing to think that HUSK has done so much more to make their school sustainable and environmentally-friendly than so many rich corporations in developed countries,” comments Lewis, another student on this trip.
Our entire group split into two; one taught children our age, the other taught children about 12 or 13 years old. On our first day at the school, we observed the teacher’s methods, and taught one activity of our own. On the second day, we had a little more responsibility, as we had to teach the entire lesson on or own. Fortunately, the teachers had already planned out our lesson, and we just had to follow their instructions. It was a little intimidating, having to teach in front of a class of 15, but we all managed to do it. The teachers and our site leaders gave us individual feedback on how we could teach in a more effective manner the next day. That night, we had to plan our own lessons to teach the next day, taking full responsibility. This was even scarier, as in addition to teaching correctly, we had to create an engaging yet informative lesson for the kids. With practice in the morning and at lunch, we felt confident that we would teach well. Our confidence was displayed in our very well-taught lesson. When our group thought about the cause that we were teaching for, we really gave it our all. After our last lesson, we were given the opportunity to spend time with the children we were teaching. We played football, we did arts and crafts, and we played some fun games. It was nice to be able to connect with the kids on a personal level, and talk to them outside of class.
Teaching at HUSK was not the only service our group did. We also built a house for a family, whose house was blown away by a storm. The parents of the family have two daughters, aged 4 and 7. This family originally had five children. Unfortunately, three of the children were lost, due to water-borne diseases. “It broke my heart to learn that after losing three children, this family had also lost their house,” Alex says. This family’s tragic story is what motivated everyone to work their hardest with building them a new and comfortable house. All the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it in the end.
“I had so many blisters on my hand that just recently went down from all the hammering,” Imran comments. Ms. MacDonald even had to go to the hospital for a nail in her hand! We managed to complete the house in three days, and using extra money, we bought the family a couple of pillows for the children and a mosquito net. The day that we finished building the house, we had a delicious dinner with the family, complete with a traditional Cambodian dance!
After all our service work was over, we spent the last two days exploring Siem Reap on bicycles and on horseback! We visited two temples in Siem Reap, including Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat had a stunning view of the greenery in Siem Reap, and we took some beautiful photos!
One of the highlights of the trip was the Amazing Race, on the last day. We were split into three groups, and had to race around Siem Reap in Tuk Tuks, using only the clues we were given and a map of the city. My team started off last place, but one challenge got us ahead of the other teams. This was the bug-eating challenge! There was a plate of bugs for each team, made up of about five crickets, six worms, and a spoon of rotten fish paste mixed with red ants. You can imagine our hesitation in eating it. However, we put aside our worries and finished the plate before any other team. It was disgusting. We finished second place, after taking a bit too long trying to solve the last puzzle. Our last day was complete with a barbeque dinner, and a trip to the night market, where students got to exhibit their bargaining skills!
This GAP trip really allowed us to grow an appreciation for all we have. A stable home, a good education, and the promise of a bright future. The children that we worked with were not as privileged as we are; the family we built a house for are living in one of the lower poverty levels. Cambodia 9 was a perfect mix of service and touring the city. I may have started off dreading this trip, but all my worries were put to rest by the second day. This trip really was a fun party!
If you were on a 2019 GAP trip and would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org