D128 Goes International–Cambodia
September 22, 2016
On June 15, 10 LHS students chaperoned by science teacher Mrs. Tiffany Owens along with her husband, Mr. Chris Owens, and special services teacher Mr. Mike Mansell, traveled across the world to participate in a service project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, led by the organization Caring for Cambodia.
Caring for Cambodia is an international nonprofit organization whose main goal is to improve early childhood education and make higher education an attainable goal for students attending schools in Siem Reap. They do this by sending groups of people from the United States to Cambodia to help improve the physical conditions of schools and work in classrooms.
Although the trip took place during the summer of 2016, there was an abundance of work put in for the trip throughout the school year for both the chaperones and the students attending.
¨There was a tremendous amount of planning that went into the trip and I think a lot of it is because it’s not just traveling to Washington D.C. or New York, this was traveling to a third-world country halfway across the world. We spent a lot of time looking at travel advisories to make sure it would be safe,” Mrs. Owens stated.
Students involved in Caring for Cambodia also fundraised for the organization throughout the year. They held Suzy’s Swirl sales outside of the cafeteria and a 5k “Ugly Sweater Run.” Students also participated in events at Feed My Starving Children several times, as the food packaged at FMSC is sent to kids in Cambodia. All of the money that was made from these fundraising efforts went towards donations for the international branch of Caring for Cambodia, and students were to individually cover the cost of their trip.
“My parents said that they’d pay for half of my trip and the trip was a little over $2,000. I tried to do GoFundMe but it was kind of difficult. Some of my family members pitched in to help me. I worked at Kumon over the summer and babysat,” senior Michelle Nee and attendee of the trip said.
After months of preparing and fundraising for the trip, the 10 students and three chaperones began their voyage to Siem Reap. On the way, the group had a 14-hour flight to Shanghai and a 24-hour layover there. During their time in Shanghai, the group got to visit the Pearl TV Tower, take a water tour in the village of Zhouzhuang, try various types meats and vegetables , and shop around. The flight from Shanghai to Cambodia was about 4.5 hours.
The beginning of the trip mainly consisted of sightseeing. Students and chaperones got to see famous temples around Cambodia, such as Angkor Wat, where they got to see the sunrise; Angkor Ta Prohm; and Banteay Kdei. Throughout the trip, the group also got to visit the Landmine Museum, which was a collection of underground mines from Cambodia’s civil war, went ziplining through a rainforest, and swam in a waterfall at Koulen Mountain.
As for the service project, on an average day, students would wake up around 6 a.m., be picked up by their tour guides around 7:45 and head to the school they were working at. In the morning, students built roads outside of the school by hammering octagon-shaped tiles into the roads that they were paving. After a few hours of working, the group would head back to their hotel for their lunch break.
In the late afternoon, they would go back to the schools and do ESL, or “English as a Second Language,” work in the classrooms, which was teaching English to elementary school students. Around 5 p.m., students and chaperones would head back to the hotel, freshen up, and then go to the village, where they would eat and shop around in the market. Some days, students also visited the high schools in Siem Reap to talk to and play soccer with students there.
As the 12-day trip came to a close, LHS students had to say goodbye to the students they met in Cambodia and reflect on everything that they had learned in the past days.
“Especially with the younger kids, you could tell that they only had one pair of shoes, or not much going on,” Nee expressed. “But they were so happy, so much happier than kindergarten kids in a classroom at Butterfield school. Like those kids are adorable too but these kids were so excited to see foreigners, they would jump right on us and that kind of taught me joy, I guess. It made me so grateful for what I have in Libertyville because it’s so different on the other side of the world.”