Making a difference!
“This year’s trip was once again very successful” said Club President Ross Bird. “This is the third year that we have taken students to Cambodia and our Australian students have once again fallen for this beautiful country and its fascinating history. From its recent horrific past under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to its ancient Angkor glory, our students were prepared to experience it all.”
“Our time spent at Krasang Roleung Primary school was very rewarding for all of us and leaving the young students was again very sad. It wasn’t only the Cambodian and Australian students who had a tear in their eye, our team leaders were getting emotional as well.”
The trip started in Phnom Penh with a visit to the Australian Embassy, which raised lots of questions on how one could get a job in the Diplomatic service and informed the team as to what DFAT does in Cambodia. This was followed by a tour of the Genocide Museum, or S21 as it is more commonly known and an audio tour of the Killing Fields, which left everyone in a very contemplative mood.
In Siem Reap, they visited the ancient temples of Angkor; the Landmine Museum; the Silk Farm and the Butterfly Farm. They helped to plant a sustainable garden and built a fence out of Palm fronds. They also learnt how to barter for goods at the local markets and how to cook the local Khmer cuisine.
The students worked with school children at Krasang Roleung Primary School and the students excelled in the classroom where they taught everything from how to clean your teeth to English grammar to Ghangham style dancing. They were a credit to their schools – Carrum Downs Secondary, Patterson River Secondary, Cranbourne Secondary, Frankston High and Melbourne Grammar.
The Rotary Club of Frankston Long Island is already taking bookings for 2013, so if you know anyone who will be completing Year 12 in 2013, please get them to contact Judy Rebecca on 0415 109 859 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy of the Itinerary and Booking Form.
Click here to view a short video of the 2010 trip to Cambodia. Links to the Animoto web site. Photographs of the 2012 visit can be viewed here
Schoolies in Cambodia
An personal account of the 2011 visit by Year 12 student, Heidi McCulloch
The smells of Asia hit me as soon as the plane landed on the tarmac. The Rotary Club of Frankston Long Island was taking 15 year 12 graduates on a schoolies that would change their lives. We were going to Cambodia. With very little sleep, we arrived in Phnom Penh and it wasn’t long before we were walking through the busy streets. Everywhere we looked there was something to see from the tangled mass of power lines above, to grand temples behind detailed metal gates. Roads were chaotic with speeding motor bikes and tuk tuks. The pavement turned to rubble beneath our feet and all of our senses were constantly assaulted by the changing of smells from food, sewerage, incense, rubbish and exhaust fumes. Our hotel was directly opposite the mighty Mekong River, full with the traffic of humble fishing boats and tourist ships. It wasn’t long before we were sharing food and swapping stories, when we had all been strangers the day before.
While walking through the market place I was confronted with my first experience of true poverty turning around to see a thin woman cradling a sleeping baby in one arm and begging for money with the other. The next day, we visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a school transformed into a prison known as S21. I trembled with fear as we walked from room to room. I had never been so frightened in my entire life. There was blood on the floor and rows of instruments used for torture. Photographs of the dead covered the walls and glass cabinets were filled with skulls and human bones. The killing fields, Cheong Ek held the same terror with mass graves, clothes of the victims and more remains. This country had welcomed us with open arms and this experience left us with a deeper understanding of what such friendly people had been through.
We left Phnom Penh and made our way to Siem Reap, travelling across the country by bus. In Siem Reap we visited the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor. Magical sites, where stone faces smiled down on us, trees strangled buildings and the sun rose over Angkor Wat to the sound of chimes and drums. Most importantly, we visited the Primary School Krasang Roleung where we would spend the remainder of our trip. We sorted books, laid bricks, paved, made Vegetable gardens, taught English and numeracy in the class rooms and got to know the kids. When we arrived the scene looked more like a construction site than a school. The children would drag us merrily through the mounds of rubble and shattered brick with a tight grip of our hands. Looking down I was surrounded by smiling faces looking up at me, taking hold of my arms and marvelling at my pale skin. They were so eager to learn and so carefree. The Green Gecko foundation was no different (an organization devoted to the rescue of orphans and street children, saving them from a life of begging and prostitution). We played many games of soccer with enthusiasm and good sportsmanship and ended our day with a playful water fight. This is just one of the memories I will treasure forever. Each child was a bright light who shows resilience that we greatly admired in each of them. They endure the worlds worst hardships with brave faces, not losing their ability to enjoy life.
The days had passed like falling grains of rice and our trip was now drawing to a close. In recent weeks the country had been devastated by floods which had destroyed many of their food supplies, leaving families with little or nothing to eat. Our final act would be a rice drop. Families of the children gathered patiently in the school to collect bags of rice that we had donated. They waited patiently for their turn. Each of us had donated many things to the children; books, toys, underwear and personal hygiene products. Many things that these children do not have the luxury to afford! This rice drop was our last gift to people who had already suffered so much. We each took a hefty bag of rice from a large pile and handed it to each family that was called. Faces we recognised, faces we didn’t. This food was desperately needed, as it was obvious that some had not eaten for days. Again I was giving out another bag of rice but to my surprise it was one of my little friends standing before me. It was then that I realised the reason she was a lot smaller than the others in her class, it was from a lifetime of malnutrition. She extended her thin arms to receive the rice. As it passed from my hands to hers I looked into her big brown eyes and she beamed up at me. I knew that this was the best moment of my life. Then the bag of rice was out of my hands. Every day after school we would leave as if we had just left a battleground, hot, sweaty, covered in dirt, usually bruised and limping, exhausted from a day’s work and play under the hot Cambodian sun…but this was to be the last time. I felt the urge to do more for these people and the country that I loved so much. I extracted $300 from my bank account, everything I had. With it I payed for 50 pairs of shoes for children who walked without shoes, new uniforms and 2 shiny bikes for large families with no form of transportation.
We had seen the floating village, Pub Street, elephants, jungles, the palace, the silk island, the night market. But it’s the faces of the children that I still can’t get out of my mind. It broke my heart to leave. There is no word in our language or in any I believe that can describe to you what I have seen, done and felt over these weeks. Cambodia has become my home and I miss it every day.
If my story has inspired you feel free to donate some much needed money to the Rotary Club of Frankston Long Island, PO Box 140 Frankston Vic 3199