Back to
Cambodia Summer Program.

Not being the change

As a journalist we have a job to reflect on the previous day. My question for the group was “after our first day of work how can we make the project more efficient.” Schools/ tourists come here to help the community thinking they are benefiting them, however in some cases they actually do more harm than good. Throughout the trip i have noticed that people who come on trips like these, are impaled with the intention that they “are the change of Cambodia” (or whatever trip they go on), but they have not noticed that by us being here in these 3rd world countries, using their electricity, cooking more food for 20 people, their water, fans, and contributing to the pollution. Throughout the trip, people have shown that they are not fully aware of the real reason they are here, the purpose of these trips are to allow young adults to explore a new part of the world, embark on a service learning experience and embrace the culture of a new atmosphere. These trips are to benefit individual and show how different parts of the world could be, they are not here to stop Cambodia from pollution or ‘help’ them by building modern houses like what we may have in our home towns because us 16,17 year olds do not have the experience or knowledge in building houses, we do not even have enough to be building a garden.

In Cambodia, our service experience is to build a vegetable/ fruit garden that will be connected to a water tank across the street that we will be building in the span of 5 days. I am 100% sure that no teenager or teacher on this trip knows how to build either of these projects. Although, this is an awesome opportunity for one to learn these skills and experience manual labor for once in their life, this service project also forces the community to work more than they should as well. I say this because on our trip some students have never been exposed to working with their hands before so they may sit back and let others work more than they should, which is not a big deal but because everyone in Koh Phdao is so helpful and giving they will take over the students job to be nice. I find this very ironic because we are here to “help” the community by building these water tanks or gardens so they do not need to, but because we have no experience in working with cement they end up doing more “service learning”  than the volunteers would do. For the people on a service trip right now I want you to think about who is really benefiting from this service project, we come in to these rural countries expecting, once we leave their will be a huge change in the community, but we have to be aware that we are here to learn for our own benefit, not to be the change of Cambodia or the change in your own country because I believe our country may be different from the country you are visiting. For example I want you to think about if a group of Cambodian teenagers (or the country you are visiting) come to your home town for a service trip looking to help you, but you may believe your town doesn’t need a lot of help. In order to make the visitors to feel complete and accomplished we need to find a skill that is easily learnable and can be somewhat beneficial. If the group came to Toronto for example, wanting to build a garden with a water tank because that is what works in their country and they have the skill set in making one, it would be unnecessary in Toronto because we do not use gardens in busy cities or water tanks because we have accessibility to the store and fresh water. I used this example because I would like to show the readers and my group that by you coming on this trip, you are not the change of that country you are going to, you are there for yourself and to feel accomplished, the country is capable of building their own necessities in their country.

What I would like to tell the readers and my group to relate this example to their trip and to remember the reason they are on the trip. The trip should not be set in place to put the locals at more work then they need to do, you are here to fill your own cup, not to take the water out of others cup.