Students find beauty in the slums

Students find beauty in the slums St Paul's students with the children in one of the FLAME learning centres that provide education for those living in the slums of Cambodia.

25 January 2019

“Having seen how beauty can come from ugliness and how happiness can transpire from bleakness, I now find it easier to see the beauty in life,” – is just one of the many reflections made by the students who embarked on the 2018 Cambodia service trip.

The trip does much more than provide an opportunity for St Paul’s students to work with slum-living children in Cambodia – it teaches them many valuable lessons about their own lives.

“Over the course of the trip, I begun to truly understand the wealth of opportunities we have been given throughout our lives,” says Isabel Mallett (Year 13).

“Coming here and experiencing life through the eyes of the children has taught me to appreciate and accept every chance I am given. I honestly believe I have learnt more from them than I could ever teach them myself,” she says.

As part of the school’s service programme, selected students accompanied by staff, fly to Cambodia in December each year where they join forces with charitable organisation FLAME, helping to provide educational opportunities for children in Phnom Penh.

“The trip is just one of the many activities that make up the St Paul’s service programme designed to promote a transformational style of learning,” says St Paul’s Chaplain, Reverend Peter Rickman.

“We are fortunate enough to have established this ongoing relationship with FLAME and to be able to serve alongside them as they carry out the extraordinary work that they do in Cambodia,” he says.

For two weeks, the travelling group assisted FLAME staff in their learning centres and via a book tuk tuk (mobile classroom) that travels into the slums. They helped teach English to the children, practised arts and crafts with them, as well as created new signage for the FLAME centres displaying the words – identify, grow and launch, along with icons that represent the organisation’s values.

While abroad, the group also paid visits to places that make up Cambodia’s unique culture and history including Silk Island, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 prison) and The Killing Fields, as well as a visit to Siem Reap and the ancient temples at Angkor Wat.

It was an eye-opening and life-changing experience for the students who took part and their personal reflections have been shared in an online blog.

“I was truly grateful for this opportunity to spend these two weeks in a country I would never think of coming to. Spending time with the kids who have the most amazing and beautiful nature and who are so keen to thrive and grow with the opportunities that they are handed. I have never seen such happiness and so much inspiration in my life,” says Liam Waide (Year 13).

“This trip really put things into perspective, and the satisfaction of knowing our efforts really do make a massive difference to the community, especially those children, is incredible. Seeing the children being given an opportunity to get an education and be part of a family was the most extraordinary thing. These kids have taught me to make the most of life,” says Annie Hantz (Year 13).

To read more about the 2018 Cambodia trip as told by the students themselves, visit their blog