Ascham girls visit schools we built in Cambodia

In December 2016, three Ascham teachers and 12 students set off for the Mondulkiri Province of Cambodia, to assist at the two schools Ascham built in Cambodia in 2005.

As well as assisting with teaching the primary and high school students, the staff and students of Ascham were also keen to see the progress of new buildings that are being constructed as a result of fundraising activities held by the girls at school in Edgecliff. The overwhelming consensus from those who were lucky enough to participate in the trip is that the experience was ‘life changing’.

Here, Year 12 student Charlotte Plashik, who participated in the trip, gives an account of her experience.

We arrived at Sydney Airport excited to embark on an adventure that would prove to be unforgettable. After a long flight we finally arrived at our first destination: the vibrant, bustling capital city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We couldn’t wait to meet out guide, Try (pron: Tree). He took us to so many amazing places during our stay and by the end of our stay in Phnom Penh, the group had bonded really well.

Our next destination was definitely the highlight of the whole trip: Mondulkiri Province, where both the Junior and Senior Schools that Ascham supports are located. On the bus trips to both the schools, we couldn’t contain our excitement. We arrived firstly at the Primary School, where we were greeted with countless smiles as we walked through the gate, the children making us feel so welcome and eager to teach. The children were extremely thankful to also receive the stationary packs and sporting equipment that we provided. We were quick to realise how appreciative these kids are over simple things, things that we would usually take for granted. We managed to overcome the language barrier allowing us to connect with the kids on a more personal level. Lessons included teaching the alphabet, numbers and animals. The children’s enthusiasm to learn and the smiles on their faces when they understood the content was unforgettable and this made us feel as though we had really accomplished something in the four days we were there.

When we arrived at the Senior School we were greeted with contagious smiles and loud applause. To our surprise and delight, we were informed that the new library was in the process of being built right next to the school. Fundraisers such as Jambodia and Walk for Cambodia have raised money towards this building. The students are so exciting for the opening of their library and cannot wait to put it to good use. It was amazing to know that every Ascham student had helped in some way build this library. After the beautiful welcoming ceremony, we assembled into our groups and couldn’t wait to begin teaching. The language barrier, as expected, was really difficult but thankfully the teachers at the school helped to translate parts of the lesson when necessary. We were amazed at our ability to communicate with the students and their capacity to understand things we were teaching them. Throughout the week, they started to ask more questions and they felt comfortable, in front of their peers, to come up to the white board and write down the answer even if it was incorrect. The students really enjoyed learning and were very willing and enthusiastic to take part in speaking, acting and writing our English words. Mrs Drever and Ms Brownlee spent time with some of the teachers instructing them on the use of science equipment and lessons. By the end of the week, we were filled with joy, as we knew each student had taken something away from our teaching.

Our final day at the schools in Mondulkiri brought a ray of unexpected emotions, both joyful and sad. We played lots of games, forming an even tighter bond with the students. Our visit to the boarding school where some of the secondary school students live, made us truly appreciate the facilities and prospects we have here at Ascham. The goal of this trip was to teach and interact with the students but I believe they have taught us a lot more. These students don’t have most of the opportunities that we are lucky to have. Every day, each and every one of them had a smile on their face allowing us, individually, to think about our lives back home and how much we underappreciate what we have. Saying goodbye to all the children at both schools may have been the hardest part of the trip, but deep down each of us has gained something amazing from this experience.

Our last destination was the beautiful Siem Reap. We visited some of the most beautiful attractions such as Angkor Wat, which is Cambodia’s most iconic temple, Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm, the temple where the movie Tomb Raider was shot. We also did a boat trip on Tonlé Sap, the largest fresh-water lake in South-East Asia and home to the floating village. The group also had lots of fun cooking up a Cambodian feast at a cooking school. Siem Reap was the perfect end to an incredible trip.

This experience has left all of us with a huge sense of appreciation for our lives here in Australia. It is so crucial that this service trip goes on for many more years to come, as it is so important to give back to the community in Mondulkiri, who have so little. I can definitely say, on the behalf of all the girls, this has been the most rewarding and unbelievable experience that we will all cherish for the rest of our lives.

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