Ten Days In Cambodia

Written by Nur Nadiah Bte Zailani (08S08).

This year’s OCIP trip had definitely been an eye-opening experience for me. Most of my fellow teammates would agree that we had gained more than we gave. Besides learning new life skills such as carpentry and wall-painting, there was also a list of life learning lessons that we obtained, such as understanding how to be more appreciative, initiative and patient.

The children there are one of the strongest and toughest group of people we had ever seen or known, both mentally and physically. We were awed to witness both the boys and girls pulling hairs and pushing each other to the ground as if it was a form of a game before bouncing back up and laugh instead of crying. At one moment, a boy even pulled and stretched a dead bat, of which I assumed was treated like his toy!

They were not only enthusiastic about learning; they provided help as we did our arduous tasks of digging the soil without us asking for it. Despite the language barrier, they were patient with us as we struggle to make them comprehend the daily lessons prepared for them. I could not help but feel envious on how such small children could be so well behaved when the time demanded for it. I dare to say that some of them acted more matured than some of us. Furthermore, we could also witness some of the elder children taking care of their younger siblings with full responsibility in school.

One stark contrast between their school and ours' is that they have a small class consisting of 40 to 50 students at any one time. Three to four students will share a row of table and a bench that was built in a jointed manner, and there was not even a single fan in any of the classes. Imagine class during a hot day! Most of them had little or no stationery available during classes for them to take down notes, and some who were more worse off did not have extra clothes. Hence, they had no choice but to keep using the same clothes for the whole of the ten days with us. Despite the huge amount of students that we had to teach in one class, there were little difficulties faced as cooperation was given most of the time.

As we donated the items during our home-visits, we realized that some of the houses they live in were built in a very simple manner - some are even standing for 45 years and now function as a shelter to more than ten people. Most of the houses there do not have toilets as they clear their bowels in the wild. Their parents, of whom are mostly farmers harvesting rice, only earn their income when their fields are ready for harvesting (equivalent to only earning income of one term per year). Despite all the difficulties that they faced, they were still happy with what they have. They rarely complained or sighed at the state that they were in. Instead, they faced every adversity with a smile on their faces, full of determination thus erasing any signs of frustration or anger.

Although at certain times I felt confused and hopeless as I could not help them live a comfortable life like the one I have in Singapore, more importantly it had made me realize how appreciative and happy they were at the state they were in. It had opened my eyes into discovering that they are different interpretations of living in comfort. Nonetheless, as a team, we had opened a window of opportunity for them to access some information that we know of about the world. These information never reached the Cambodia citizens in the past due to the wars that they had to constantly face, such as the Khmer Rouge and Pot Pol.

What we had left there were a newly painted school, a nicely evened out compound for the children to run around, donations such as toys and books and a new library for them. During our final days there, I felt delighted to see them and even some of their parents eagerly opening up the pages of the new books and playing with the toys standing on the newly-constructed shelves against the brightly painted walls.

Even though most of my teammates would agree that we could have done so much more given the ample time that we we had, we were glad to have provided them with the tools that could possibly improve their lives in the future. In addition to that, I think complaining would not make a difference, as we have left the place with cherished memories and we learn to appreciate life and its wonders. Moreover, it opened our hearts towards helping others more in the future. How I wish we could stay longer!


Find It