Inspiring Mission to Angkrongby Bob Pomeroy, Head of Operations
Together with 17 students from the HOPE Cambodia Service Club and two colleagues, I returned to school last week inspired by our 9-day trip to Cambodia, where we helped to construct a new junior high school classroom building. Working with our local NGO partner, HOPE International Development Agency, in rural Angkrong Village, the trip afforded our group the opportunity to experience first-hand the struggles of people living in severe poverty and the ways in which HOPE's community-based development activities are making a difference.
We started our service learning journey in the capital city of Phnom Penh, where we visited the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, also known as the Killing Fields memorial. There, we learned about Cambodia's tragic civil war and genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, providing historical context for the cycle of poverty that we would witness later in the trip. We then travelled overland to Pursat in central Cambodia, one of the country's poorest provinces, where HOPE's Cambodia office is located and its development activities are carried out.
Although there has been significant progress in Pursat over the past decade - much of it thanks to HOPE - there are still many isolated rural communities where people live in severe poverty, lacking access to basic necessities and opportunities for their children. HOPE's integrated development approach -- including providing access to clean water and sanitation, empowering women through self-help groups and microfinancing, and improving educational access -- effectively addresses those needs and helps the people in these communities to help themselves.
While in Pursat, we had the opportunity to visit various HOPE projects and work alongside local HOPE staff and villagers. The main focus of our activity was helping to construct a classroom building for a junior high school, made possible by funds donated by the YIS community. Staying in a nearby Buddhist monastery, we walked each day to the worksite where we hauled rocks and sand in wicker baskets into the classrooms by hand, and used "elephant's feet" (tree stumps with poles attached) to tamp down the rocks to prepare the classroom subfloors for the concrete slabs that would be mixed by hand and poured bucket by bucket. In addition to the local carpenters and work crew overseeing the project, we were frequently joined by the Angkrong school children who were working hard to help build their own school.
Using the "Elephant's Foot" to tamp down rocks
Teaching English at Tadeis ES
Interactions with the children from Angkrong, as well as children from the elementary school in Tadeis Village that YIS supported last year, were the highlights of the trip. It was particularly gratifying to see the thriving Tadeis elementary school one year later, with scores of new students and three new teachers. Our students led some English teaching activities, and were also able to pick up some Khmer words and phrases from their hosts. The smiles and laughter we shared transcended any language barriers.
Before leaving Pursat, we visited two families awaiting a water well from HOPE and helped to construct the concrete aprons around two wells that HOPE had recently built for two other families in a remote village. These sobering visits helped our students to understand the elemental role that access to clean water plays in enabling families to survive and begin the climb out of dire poverty.
Although the trip is over, the work of the HOPE Cambodia Service Club goes on, as we continue to learn about the needs of the communities in Pursat and how, together with HOPE, we can continue to make a difference. Our thanks again to everyone in the YIS community who has helped to support this worthwhile cause. See more pictures and video in YIS Photos.