Project week was the first time that I have gone outside Singapore without any supervision whatsoever. Just us four friends. We decided to go to Phnom Penh where we worked with the GC I contribute to at school, Green Umbrella. We stayed at the school for 3 days where we worked on multiple projects: surveys regarding the plastic press, solar energy initiative, and the library, all of which we are working on at school. We also conducted a leadership workshop that the head of Green Umbrella, Sokrath, asked us to do.
Admittedly, when we first reached the boarding house and saw the rooms, we were all pretty uncomfortable by the situation because of numerous, creepy insects. Despite that, we kept our goals in mind and went to Karuna Kumar School and helped teach children English. It was truly inspiring to see all these students there who are less privileged than we are yet they work so much harder to learn, and they were only in the fifth grade! I realized that a lot of the things that we have we take for granted and it is easy to look over important day to day things that we never notice. For example, on the first day, I realized the value of water and how important it is to have a clean, reliable source of water. I also learned to be adaptable to situations and prioritize goals over accommodation.
On the second day, I went around houses and asked a few questions regarding their energy supply and their waste disposal. Over here I saw first hand how the lack of education can affect society because these people were unaware of the damages that burning plastic has on the atmosphere yet they still burn waste plastic because they don’t know how else to dispose of it. Before coming to project week we assumed that the village had little to no electricity but when we reached there we learned that they actually have an ample supply of electricity, with enough energy to basic appliances. It was nice to see that the people there are making the best of their situation and making the best of their situation by using what they have to their advantage. They use their resources wisely and try their best to have no wastage because they know the value of what they get. From this, I learned that maybe I should do the same, try not to take things for granted and use what I have efficiently so that I don’t waste any of my resources.
On that same day, we conducted the first session of our workshop for the high school students and I never realized how big a language barrier can be when teaching someone something new. There were many people who didn’t understand the first few times we explained something and later on we had to go individually to some people to help them. In the end, their inspiring drive to improve their community persevered and they played their role in the workshop to learn what we had to teach.
We were soon on our way to the hotel to stay in the city for the last two days. On our way there we went to historic sites where we saw the tragic history of wars that occurred in Cambodia. It was pretty gruesome but there was this uplifting shrine where visitors put bracelets on the wooden stumps around the graves of the victims of violence. This hopeful gesture was something that was something that lifted the hope of humanity within me, knowing that we have learned from those horrific events and now we know now that compassion is much better than violence.
All in all, it was an enjoyable trip with many stories and fun adventures that brought upon many lessons. I think this experience has shown me how it is like to be completely independent and has given me confidence as well that I will be able to survive, and I won’t lose anything either (I was terrified that I was going to lose something but I’m so glad I didn’t). Project week has shown me that I am ready to be more independent and I can’t wait to utilize these experiences and learnings when I go to university