The Rotary Club of Bendigo South's Matthew Scott reflects on a recent Rotary trip to Cambodia.
A "WORLD of difference" is a term that gets thrown around quite a lot in general conversation,
However, over the past two weeks, through Rotary International, several people including myself have been able to contribute to making a world of difference within the remote and isolated villages of Cambodia.
Through our voluntary work at several schools and orphanages around Cambodia, we were able to teach the students at these schools dental hygiene, art and craft projects, as well as how to speak and write English for these students who usually speak traditional Khmer as their first language.
Over the course of two weeks in Cambodia, our World of Difference (WOD) group worked in primary schools and orphanages right across the country from Siem Reap to Battambang and finally in Bosala, just outside the capital of Phnom Penh.
As someone who has been working as a casual relief teacher this year, having studied at university to become a full time teacher, there was nothing more satisfying than to go into these international classrooms and being able to share my knowledge and skills with these students who crave and cherish education so dearly.
For me, I mainly focused on teaching the students English.
This included going through English translations for numbers and letters of the alphabet as well as using the picture story book of the The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a means through which to teach the students about different fruits and foods.
By doing this, we could test the students on their knowledge and comprehension of English gained so far through their studies at school.
Although many of the students who we encountered in our classroom were not from well off families, many were even orphans, most were only at the very beginning of their educational careers.
However, what impressed me the most about the Cambodian students was their willingness to learn and the quick way in which they would pick up on what it was that we were trying to teach them.
Many Bendigo school teachers and students would be familiar with the game of BUZZ where you count up to a certain number in a sequence but supplement a certain number in the sequence with the word "buzz".
The challenge as students make their way around the classroom being to remain cool under pressure and say the word buzz instead of the next number in the sequence.
With the language barrier and all, I was impressed how in only about 10 minutes of trying to explain the game and it’s rules, we had a fully functioning game of buzz going on in the classroom with students fully engaged in what was taking place.
Whilst also abroad in rural Cambodia, members of the touring team had a go at boring several wells at people’s homes around the Chress Village.
This was quite a lot of fun, but certainly a lot harder than it seemed.
Walking around several of the villages in rural Cambodia definitely gave me a renewed sense of appreciation of the wonderful and abundant life that we have in Australia.
This is a great country!
Yet it also inspired inside of me a desire to want to continue to help people such as the Cambodians, through my involvement locally with the Rotary Club of Bendigo South.
Although we had the opportunity to do many of the "touristy" activities in Cambodia such as riding the bamboo train in Battambang and swimming at the waterfall at Phnom Kolum, it was really the humanitarian aspect of the trip that most of the participants journeyed into the Northern Hemisphere to take part in.
We learnt so much about Cambodia and its people and history, yet we also learnt a lot about ourselves and how we could go about helping to build the capacity of Cambodia and its people at the same time.
The Rotary District 9800 World of Difference tours are a great way experience the country of Cambodia and to meet the people, while also contributing to make a difference throughout the trip.
On a final note, as we were being driven on our bus to Phnom Penh International airport to begin our flight home, our local tour guide Rithy Ann left us with a Cambodian quote to let us know just how appreciated our trip was by the Cambodian people who we had encountered and worked with throughout our journey.
“Further are the eyes, but nearer the hearts,” meaning that although we are now all back home and in separate countries, we all still remain close at heart.
It was a massive high to end such a successful trip on, one for which I will hold onto the memories of for many years to come.