AT TAYLOR'S: Sim Jia Kent (JiaKent.Sim@taylors.edu.my)
PROJECT PARTNER: Camps International (info@campsinternational.com)
In the month of March 2015, students and staff of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) of Taylor’s College Sri Hartamas embarked their journey to Camp Beng Mealea, a small village in northern Cambodia. The five days trip was organized in collaboration with Camps International that specializes in international volunteer and service programmes. Since 2002, the organisation has been working to change lives in Africa, South America and throughout Asia. Through a network of 25 permanent camps, they are able to commit fully to projects to ensure lasting effects on the areas where they are located.

Prior to the trip that has always been anticipated and known as ‘the highlight’ for the students, a fundraising culminated with two days of bake sales were. Ended with tremendous success, funds raised were used for the purchase of stationeries for the Cambodian children, which the IBDP students had personally packed themselves before they flew off to Cambodia. Touching down in Beng Mealea, the students were briefed by Mr Han Hoeuy, the camp manager, on their schedule for the next five days which included laying bricks, building pathways and fences and teaching English to the local children. Other than that, they also had the chance to learn the local language, Khmer, visit the historical city of ancient Cambodia, play local sports and many other cultural activities.
The poverty in rural Cambodia is striking and harsh, so any visitor to Beng Mealea will see first hand the hardships of daily life as it is across the whole country. It is not known as the Kingdom of Water without just cause – for many months of the year the whole country, which is naturally very flat, is submerged by floods, making travel and existence very difficult. The remaining months of the year it is the other extreme – very hot and dry, making growing any kind of crop near impossible, and water conservation is at the very top of every family's priorities. That said, it is these very hardships which make the people more endearing and genuine, opening up with wide grins and smiles at the slightest provocation, and all of this in spite of their all too tragic recent history.

As the IBDP students arrived at the camp on their first day, they wandered around the village and saw cluttered rubbish all over on the dry grounds due to the drought that has been ongoing for the past four months. Lee Zi Sheng, a participant of the program shares, “As we walked around the village on the first day, we listened to the heart wrenching stories of young children living in abject poverty and deprived circumstances. Their parents stopped them from going to school as they do not think education is necessary. In the village, people are poor, they do not have electricity and stay in mud-made or wooden houses. Seeing their conditions first-hand empowered and reminded us that we came to help make a small difference in their lives. We were there to improve the lives of those who are not as privileged as ours, and having a noble goal in mind certainly made everything more bearable.”

Another participant, Isabelle reflects on her experience of the excursion, “we went out of our comfort zones and the experience of being there was beyond words. We were privileged to have the opportunity to know the locals, learn their language and immerse ourselves in their culture. The best part of the trip was stories and the beauty of the locals, living in a completely different environment from us, but is equally special. We saw the smiles and the warm hospitality of the people, who were fascinated every time we tried to flaunt our newly-learnt Khmer phrases, the eager and innocent faces of the children who learnt English from some of us. We flew home with a deep sense of gratitude in our hearts.”

For further information about Camps International, interested parties can visit http://www.campsinternational.com/ or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/campsinternational.  

Written by Lee Zi Sheng