Over 80 students and staff recently returned from a very successful service trip to Cambodia. The Cambodia Service Project is one of the signature programs at Ivanhoe Grammar School, providing our students with the unique opportunity to not only learn about Cambodian culture but also to serve local communities. Students spend up to a year planning, preparing and fundraising before departing annually for Cambodia in mid-June.
From day one, our students were immersed in the heat and captivating culture of the capital, Phnom Phen. This year, the large group of students was split into three groups, taking part in activities with our partner charities including Happy Football Cambodia and the Indochina Starfish Foundation which provided them with engaging cross-cultural learning experiences.
A highlight of the trip is always the language lessons where our students get the opportunity to interact with Cambodians by teaching them English. They organised and ran these lessons in Phnom Phen and in rural villages. Ivanhoe students Josh and Guled reflected on this experience, "Today was such a rewarding experience, to start off the day we were lucky enough to visit the Starfish Foundation in Phnom Penh. Throughout our time at the foundation, we took part in many activities such as painting, teaching and tuk-tuk rides. Our favourite experience would have to have been the teaching as it is such an awesome experience being able to teach skills to less fortunate children and seeing the smiles every child’s face. Seeing that was extremely rewarding."
Students also took part in many capacity-building projects as well as local community work in the Peak Sneng village in the Siem Reap region and Phnom Penh, primarily focusing on several schools. For over a decade Ivanhoe has been working with the ACK Village School near Siem Reap. During this time many different projects have been completed such as planting mango trees, which are now mature enough to provide much-needed shade and the levelling of a field that now provides a water-free playing surface for the children.
On this year's trip, work began on building a new classroom and library. This vital work has contributed greatly to the local communities and the bonds that have been formed with the local Cambodian people go from strength to strength. Ivanhoe students Lara and Harry reflected on this experience, "The day was an emotional rollercoaster and our tears were a reflection of the connections we made. We came away from this experience with an amazing feeling of accomplishment knowing the effect we had on the kids and the significance of the day for us."
Despite the heat, the long days and the physical work our students always come away with renewed gratitude for what they have and a different perspective. Service trips like this have a profound effect on our students, enabling them to discover more about themselves and the world through the cross-cultural connections they make. Through this connection and care for others across the globe, they become true global citizens.