Landing in Phnom Penh, we spend some time exploring the largest city and capital of Cambodia. The students are introduced to Cambodia and the Khmer culture, including a short introduction to the language and a briefing on traditions, religion and etiquette. Whilst in Phnom Penh the students visit the Grand Palace and the Silver Pagoda, the current home of the King and Queen of Cambodia. They visit a local not-for-profit restaurant to try the local cuisine, and enjoy a sunset cruise down the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. Students also spend some time in Phnom Penh learning more about the recent genocide and the Khmer Rouge. The students have covered this in school prior to the trip, and will be well prepared for a visit to S21. Local guides provide the students with invaluable insight into the hardships that the local people had to endure. This experience will no doubt bring to life the realities of Cambodia's very recent history.
After spending time in Phnom Penh, students travel to Kampong Cham for the learning service element of their trip. As well as being home to the beautiful Watt Nokor (a temple older than those seen at Angor Watt), Kampong Cham is a community in need of help and support. It is slightly off the beaten track and therefore provides an opportunity for our students to experience a part of Cambodia that they may not otherwise visit. It is here where they ‘give back’ through carrying out some very rewarding community service. Our local contact group in Kampong Cham is the BSDA (Buddhism for Social Development and Action). They have been working closely with the community in Kampong Cham for over ten years and are a charity with whom Rustic Pathways partner. They offer training and ‘daycare’ to children of all ages and have done some amazing work with the local community. We are very privileged to be able to work with them and to provide them with our helping hands.
Prior to the trip the students will be split into groups and will be allocated an appropriate job for their days of service. The jobs cover a wide range of activities including painting the Happy Happy Drop In Centre (a day care for young children), helping further develop the grounds of the orphanage and repairing houses for some of the most needy in the community.
After three nights in Kampong Cham we return to Phnom Penh, with just enough time to visit a traditional market or two, before flying back home to Hong Kong. Whilst in Cambodia, a very special and unique country, we aim to take full advantage of the incredible surroundings and the kind people and give the students a very memorable experience.