Students and staff of St Paul’s made their way to Cambodia in December 2019 as volunteers to work alongside and assist the ongoing service work currently undertaken by the charity Flame in the slums of Phnom Penh. This was the fourth year students and staff have made this trip.
Flame is an organisation delivering education to the children in the slums, giving them hope of a brighter future.
Upon arrival in Phnom Penh, the group of 24 senior students and four staff, had their first exposure into the classrooms at the Sen Sok Education Centre. Here they were involved in teaching young children maths, English, computing, dancing and music.
“Everyday I smiled for a different reason, but today it was because we had the whole room dancing Gang Nam style,” says David Koshy, year 12 student.
The group, led by Revd Peter Rickman said they met so many children and young people who were incredibly happy, despite their extreme and desperate poverty, living in shacks and makeshift shelters.
“The joy of these children and young people we interacted with and grew to know and to love, was centred in the value placed on the education that they were receiving.
“Education is to them, like it is to us, a passport. For us, it is a passport into a brighter, better and more fulfilled future. For the children and young people in the Flame centres, it is a passport out of the slums, away from poverty, slavery, oppression and the ever-constant threat and risk of trafficking,” says Rev Rickman.
The group met with the young leaders of Flame and learned the stories of those children who attended the Flame education programmes. This allowed them to see the work and service Flame and its people put into the communities they serve.
The group also met Sok Sou, the man who transports the St Paul’s sponsored mobile library, the Book Tuk Tuk around the area. Sok Sou drives into poorer areas of Phnom Penh with the St Paul’s Book Tuk Tuk, teaching children who can’t get to a Flame education centre.
Kaley Caulfield, year 12, reflected on her time in the slum classrooms in Cambodia as being most remarkable.
“The genuine look of excitement and love on the children’s faces throughout the entire session. These children, although it may be hard to believe, have lost all hope as other Cambodians do not care enough to help them, let alone acknowledge them in any way.
“So for us, students of St Paul’s to be able to give them hope and show them there is a way out of the poverty and there are people who care about them, was probably one of the most significant experiences throughout the trip. Cambodians truly are the most resilient and loving people you may ever meet,” says Kaley.
The Cambodia service trip is just one of the many service programmes students at St Paul’s are encouraged to take part in to give back and help those less fortunate. The programme promotes a transformational style of service that is completely voluntary. More information can be found here.