When I chanced upon 'Caring for Cambodia' in the CISTK school newsletter, after a quick read I just let it pass. A few days later, the thought kept coming back to my mind- is this something I could do with her, would it be a worthwhile experience, will we really make a difference, etc. The decision was taken and we both decided to take part in a school volunteering program in Siem Reap for 3 days.
As days passed by, the tasks were clear. We were told we will be building a portion of a school compound wall. We would be doing this along with students/parents from other schools from Singapore. After many discussions and apprehensions we were both on the flight to Siem Reap. There was an eerie silence between us till we landed in Cambodia.
We had a clear agenda on what needed to be done at the school but the 'hidden agenda' was to make friends, mingle with the local workers, try to work in a team, break the ice with everyone around. Hours passed by, the group started chatting- we now knew a bit more about each other than just our names- where we came from, our association with Singapore, a bit about our families. With 9 of us in the group and each one from a different country, we had enough to chat about. Each meal together and every tuk-tuk ride we took made it only better.
In less than two days and under harsh conditions, we completed our task, literally earning some free time to see Siem Reap. Though the objective was to see Angkor Wat, Bayon,Tha-Promh but those few hours spent together actually bonded us (even the adults). The kids mingled like they knew each other for years, played the silliest of games, the adults even got some serious 'Pokemon' lessons from the kids.The flight back to Singapore was a contrast to our onward journey. Most of the gang was on the same flight and we could only hear laughter's, giggles and chatter. The ice had indeed been broken.
Now when I think back on what I hoped to achieve on this trip it seems a bit unclear- yes we had intentions to do some 'good' work (and I'd surely like to believe that we did), but I think it truly turned out to be more a personal high for both of us- just knowing that we could work in a team, make new friends, bond in a new environment, withstand a few hardships and make the most of every moment we spent together on a trip like this. As we landed back in Singapore, we both smiled at each other and the message was loud and clear for us- we both felt nothing less than 'winners'.
|The group with the 'Caring for Cambodia' team|