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Cambodia Summer Program.

Understanding the history makes us better at service

I have been reflecting on our trip so far and why it is structured in this way – why do we spend time getting to know the culture and the country before going to do service? I think it is so we can get a deeper understanding of the culture of the country and the history behind it, and only then will we be able to try to help in whatever way we can. The question of service learning comes into play – are we doing this mainly for ourselves? It’s a hard reality, but this question lingered in my mind.

I think back to our time at the S21 genocide museum. The most impactful thing for me was hearing the pain in the voices as we listened to the audio tour, and seeing all the faces of the people that were killed, and the torture devices used. Seeing these things made me question humanity. The sad part is that this keeps on happening in history, and it isn’t for the first time.

We started talking about Canada’s history, about the residential schools that we had for Aboriginal people. We had some controversial debates about whether the S21 prison camp turning into a tourist attraction was good or bad, or whether the Khmer Rouge trials that cost $400 million was a good decision or not.

These experiences and discussions gave me a lot of perspective and a deeper understanding of Cambodia, and now knowing this, I can be a lot more thoughtful in the journey ahead – especially in regards to service learning and my home-stay.