Written by: Adrian Chia
Photographer: Jacqueline Lie
Edited by: Png Ning
19 members, 16 days, 2 schools, 1 orphanage, 300+ kg of donated items from KEVIIans
1 mission – Going the distance, reaching out
OCIP Cambodia 2011
16-31 May 2011
It all started since last year, when intriguing stories of OCIP Cambodia were told by my friend, Gavin. The desire to join the team only grew stronger when a few of my close friends like Ken Juin, Stephanie and Reuben also expressed similar interest. In fact, we began to speak eagerly in anticipation of the trip even before we were accepted into the team. As this year’s vacation was likely to be my last before I graduate, my plan was to do something meaningful and to have fun with my friends. OCIP Cambodia seemed to fit nicely into my expectations.
Little did I expect what were to come for the next few months.
At our first meeting last August, there were so many unfamiliar faces. After one round of self-introduction, I still had difficulty remembering all the names. Through the numerous fund raising events, car washes, meetings and frequent email exchanges, I slowly got to know the team better – a bunch of fun-loving, energetic, passionate and creative people.
The inaugural RunKE event was a significant breakthrough for the team. First mooted as an idea to raise funds, it quickly turned into an administrative and logistical nightmare for us. With no prior experience, much of the planning had to be done from scratch. Even the route could not be finalised till the last moment. Despite the bumpy planning process, the run went on smoothly without a hitch. Our joy and satisfaction were simply not measurable in terms of the funds we received.
When I boarded the flight to Phnom Penh on 16th May 2011, a sense of disbelief lingered in my mind – the much-awaited the trip had finally begun! All the months of anticipation, preparation and fund raising would culminate in the next 16 days, during which we would deliver the goodwill of KEVII Hall to the needy communities in Cambodia. Yet, I had many burning questions in mind. Who exactly are the people we are about to meet? Is our programme really going to help them? How are we going to distribute the 300kg of items donated by our Hall residents?
For many of us in the team, the trip was an adventure out of our comfort zone to a foreign land, where the language barrier, poor hygiene and all kinds of unexpected events could possibly make our lives miserable. Thankfully the team was made up of an extremely helpful and caring bunch of people. Amidst the sweltering heat and excitement of activities, we constantly reminded each other to drink up, to wash our hands before meals and to take our malarial pills. Simple gestures like those made the difference. When one of us fell ill, some members took turns to look after him while others quickly stepped up to fill in the gap. The team spirit was solid.
Our two-week programme was packed, even bordering on hectic at times. In the first week, we checked into COSI orphanage, where more than a hundred young children call it home. As the children cheered and laughed heartily during the various games, drawing and origami sessions organised by the team, we shared their joy and excitement too. At the neighbouring COSI Middle School, besides conducting English lessons, we set up a new library, stocked it up with new books, gave its walls a fresh coat of paint and brightened it up with colourful mural paintings. As the library became packed with students reading quietly during break times, we knew that our objectives had been achieved. Mission accomplished.
Andong Village Primary School, located in the heart of a huge slum, was our next destination. Over the second week, we taught English to different classes of students, ranging from kindergarten to pre-university students. While the kindergardten class was still struggling with the alphabets, the pre-university students were already able to converse with us in relatively fluent English. Sensing that our presence there was a rare opportunity to practice their English conversation, the mature students eagerly requested us to correct their pronunciation and expression, as they talked to us about wide-ranging topics from Singapore’s education system to women’s rights. Their eagerness to learn truly impressed us. During our time there, we also revamped the school library, built new flower beds and scrubbed the children’s hair with anti-lice shampoo.
Two intense weeks were barely sufficient to achieve all we had in mind, much less to see all our efforts come to fruitition. Nonetheless, we deserved to rest and relax too! The weekends were spent touring around Phnom Penh and, as Uncle Jacob, our main contact person in Cambodia, put it, ‘to do our part to stimulate the Cambodian economy’. Like typical Singaporeans, the local markets appealed greatly to us with their cheap bargains and wide variety of goods. We also explored the city for different flavours of food. The local fruits were exquisitely juicy and sweet! Through the visits to the killing fields and the genocide musuem, we had a better understanding of the country’s dark and saddening past, which made us realised the greater significance of our mission – to help rebuild a society where the wounds of its recent conflicts remain raw and pervasive.
In the last few days of our trip, we made our way to Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat became our favourite hangout. Our valiant effort to catch the sunrise and sunset was hindered by poor weather, but that gave us ample time to explore the ancient wonder and to literally cam-whore wherever we went.
When it was time to head home, I felt like a part of me now belonged to this land. There was a nagging sense of an incomplete job being done, as I am certain much more could be done to improve the lives of the people we met. Above all, the good memories, the friendships and the life experiences from this OCIP Cambodia will have a special place in my heart, where it will be preserved and cherished for a very long time to come.
Do visit the OCIP Facebook page to view more photos! The link if provided below.
The OCIP team would like to thank all KEVIIans for your generous support throughout our project! Your kindness has certainly gone a long way in helping the needy children in Cambodia. =)