- Group:Anglia Girl Guides
- Age:14-17 years old
- Group Size:9 guides 3 leader
- Project:Care & Community
- Destination:Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Before we left
In November 2014 at the Girlguiding Anglia selection weekend, 9 girls and 3 leaders were all chosen to go on a life-changing trip to Nepal. Unfortunately, due to the devastating earthquakes that happened in April 2015, we were no longer able to visit the country. Thankfully Projects Abroad reorganised a trip for us, to the equally amazing country of Cambodia. We were going to be doing a Care & Community volunteer trip to Asia’s Hope School in Phnom Penh. We met up various times before the trip where we planned activities to do with all of the children and prepared ourselves for the culture shock. We also had a lovely visit from a member of Projects Abroad staff who came and answered all of our burning questions! We each had to individually fundraise a lot of money for the trip, and completed this task by doing fun runs, a sponsored walk over the O2 arena, creating a guess the number of eggs in the jar and many other exciting ideas! The next time we saw each other would be at an obscene hour in the morning at Heathrow airport!
What we did
We got to Phnom Penh after a total of 16 hours on a plane! For the next two days we were shown around the city and got settled in by the lovely Projects Abroad team, which consisted of two Cambodian and one British Projects Abroad workers.
Then we had our first day at Asia's Hope school (our placement) which for children who would not normally be able to attend school due to fees, but now could. Their ages ranged from 4-15 yeas old. We got cracking on our tasks and started brick-laying, painting and digging. We painted a map of Cambodia on their wall for them along with the English and Khmer alphabet. The same day we also got blessed by Buddhist monks which was a brilliant experience – we got very wet!
For the rest of our first week we spent our days continuing our work at the school and getting to know the culture by shopping at the markets, visiting the National Museum and Royal Palace and trying local delicacies such as tarantulas and ants! A couple of us got stuck in a lift and had to be hauled out by tuk-tuk drivers – quite an experience! In the second week we continued our work at the school and most of us are now experts in bricklaying! We all also got to try our hand at teaching by helping the volunteer teachers already there – it was so much fun and the children loved having us teach them new words.
We also met up with some Cambodian girl guides who helped us with a hygiene workshop at the school, teaching children about hand washing and teeth cleaning – valuable skills they didn’t know much about. On one of the days we visited the Killing Fields and the S-21 museum which was sad but important to know about, as it meant we could understand Cambodian history a lot better. Towards the end of the week we had a farewell party with the children which was so brilliant. We danced, skipped, blew bubbles and ate! We made 130 friendship bracelets so that each child had one, which they all loved. At the end of the party we were so sad to say goodbye but were happy at the difference that we had made to the school and the children.
The weekend trip
At the weekend in the middle of the two weeks, we went on an 8-hour bus journey up to Siam Reap. We stopped off for lunch in a beautiful restaurant overlooking a lake. When we got to Siam Reap we settled into our hotel, had dinner and then went out to the night markets. These were so much fun and it gave us a great opportunity to try out our new-found bartering skills. The next day was a 4:30am start (!) to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat temple. We were all very sleepy but it was worth it, to be able to see this breathtaking temple. We spent the rest of the morning exploring Angkor Wat, and two other temples. Indiana Jones was filmed in one of them! In the afternoon we got back to the hotel and relaxed, before going out for dinner to see some gorgeous classical dancing. After that we made a quick stop at the markets to get some last minute souvenirs, before enjoying a well-earned rest.
This was a life-changing trip, we were all pushed out of our comfort zones and learnt to adapt to a different, beautiful culture. The work we did at Asia’s Hope School was really fantastic. It was so brilliant to be able to create these things for the children and know that they would really leave a mark on their school life. Also just spending time, and playing with all of the gorgeous children was amazing, as we know that they will remember us and we feel we really enhanced their couple of weeks at the school. It was also very humbling as all of these children were just so happy that we came to see them, and so pleased that they could just go to school and get an education, whereas we often take a lot of things like education for granted. The Projects Abroad team that looked after us were brilliant – they helped us whenever we needed it, and made us feel so welcome. This trip will forever be in our minds as it has shaped us all as people and the way in which we view the world.
By Hannah Gray
Read more about Care & Community in Cambodia.