Experience of a Lifetime

Hornsea School’s Community Partnership Advisor Sally Richardson has just returned home with this report.
Hornsea 6th Form’s visit to Cambodia & Thailand has been a huge success that saw the 14 students (and staff) completely taken out of their comfort zones and challenged to not only live in rural Cambodia where we were accommodated in wooden ‘shacks’, sleeping on the floor under mosquito nets, using very primitive sanitation facilities, no air-con and limited electricity. Each day, our students either spent 6 hours teaching English to large classes of mixed ability and age Cambodian children or taking part in our sanitation building project. The building work undertaken resulted in the completion of three toilet facilities for the poorest and most needy families in the Cambodia village – one was for a lone woman and her 10 year old son. The woman had also just lost her older 17 year old son 3 weeks previously as a result of illness. This facility meant that she and the other 2 families aided will no longer need to use a nearby field as toilets.
This was a very humbling visit that tested the resilience of all – our students rose to this challenge and conducted themselves with both compassion and enthusiasm. It was fantastic to watch them and see them deal with all the situations they faced.
We feel that there is still much work to be done there, we have the makings of a fantastic partnership with the village school, who welcomed us into their community, loved us being there with them and were extremely grateful for what we were doing. An example of this was when we needed to take one of the students to a local medical centre for some treatment for her ear infection – when the doctor heard about what we were doing he declined any payment for the treatment saying that as we were helping his country he was really grateful and that he therefore won’t accept any payment! These really are people that have nothing but the little they have they will give or share.
Before this visit, we thought that what we were doing would provide a great deal of support and help for the people in Cambodia – however, without doubt it was us that probably got the most out of it!
So, thank you very much to everyone that helped and supported this project and visit, whether it was via the fundraising or providing support etc whilst we were away – you too have contributed to the success of this project.
One of our Year 13 Students, Eleanor Boyd writes:
“The two weeks I spent in Cambodia are two weeks I will never forget. Whilst in Cambodia I spent my time volunteering in two NGO schools – Savong School and My Happy Village Cambodia. One thing that had a massive impact on me (whilst in both of the schools) was the children’s enthusiasm to learn. As I watched them run into school – faces lit massive smiles, they understood the importance that learning English would have on their future; for them, English is a way to escape the financial poverty that they are in. Whilst at MyHappyVillage, I felt part of the community. Never before have I been made to feel more welcome than I was there; as you passed people they would give you the biggest smile. I think the most rewarding part of the trip was the building of the toilets; it is an amazing feeling to be able to give something to someone that is going to benefit their life hugely. For me this was the toilet we built for a 14 year old girl, as we knew that this would improve her safety and make life a little easier for her. She cooked, cleaned and cared for her younger siblings all on her own. I don’t think many people in this country can say at 14 years old they would be mature enough to do this – but this is exactly what she had done. At the same time she ensured they all were educated, helping them in the future.
This trip will have an impact on me forever. It has made me realise that perhaps in the west we complain too easily at some of the things we are asked/have to do. There have been mornings in the past that I would wake up and complain that I was too tired to go to school! I now realise that this was wrong. Hundreds of children in Cambodia and all around the world, would do anything to have the standard of education that I was lucky enough to receive.
Another thing that this trip confirmed is that materialistic goods don’t guarantee happiness. The people we were lucky enough to stay with, lived in a ‘shack’ (with no furniture and just a mosquito net), but were some of the happiest people I have ever met. They had a generosity much greater than I would have perhaps expected and possibly greater than we are used to in more affluent society.
I would recommend this trip to anyone who wants to give something to someone that’s going to make a difference to their life. I know for sure that in the future if any other volunteering opportunities arise I will grab it will both hands as it provides a massive sense of achievement and satisfaction. I hope to return to My Happy Village. if you’re ever visiting Cambodia, to take a trip and give up some days to help. I guarantee it’ll be one of the best things you will ever do.”

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