This service group established the foundation for Global Connection Project’s vision of a cultural immersion program and traveling unscripted. This journey landed our group in Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok, the group experienced traveling as locals. We took the train to the Aranyaprathet, Thailand/Poipet, Cambodia border crossing. Traveling on a crowded train and crossing the border at night was quite the adventure. From Poipet, our team journeyed to Siem Reap where we spent a short time visiting the children at New Life Center Organization. NLCO was under heavy construction during this time expanding its facilities. Our team took the bus to Battambang where we met up with GCP Cambodia Director, Sopheap. Another 45-minute ride by tuk-tuk on dusty gravel roads, we finally reached our destination: Khmer Heart Center in Singha Village. And this is where our journey in reflection and service work began…
Yesterday was our last day teaching at the center in Battambang, and we said goodbye to all the kids. This morning, many of the kids showed up at the center to come visit us. They brought us treats, gifts, and a warm, loving feeling. Some of my students from the afternoon class also came by and I was very happy to see them again. When they all said their last goodbyes and walked out the door, it became very emotional. As I watched them walk away tears ran down my cheeks. Every day after the evening session of class we would bike these students home and say bye to them at their homes, but today we just stood at the door and watched them leave. It was tough. I will never forget these beautiful faces and how they brought happiness into my life.
I told myself I would be fine during the last hour of class. The students were laughing, a few were singing, and they took a short quiz on what they had previously learned. As the students turned in their quizzes and left for the day, a few of the girls handed me drawings that they had done of me and gave it to me as a goodbye gift. I looked at them one by one. On one of them was written, “I love teacher big.” I had tears in my eyes and I was sad because I knew deep down it would be a long time from now before I got to see them, if ever again. Shortly afterwards one of my other students came up to me and gave me another gift, and then I was handed a bag of turnips from my student as I accepted it and walked into the classroom. I stood at the desk as tears strolled down my cheeks. After a short minute of crying I was able to manage my emotions as I wiped away my tears and got a hold of myself. I turned around to see a few of my students crying. I opened my arms as they hugged me. We had a good ending, one with joy and meaning.
I’ve been teaching for five days in rural Cambodia, and already I dread thinking about the day when I have to leave my students. I will miss the way my students stand up everyday to greet me into the classroom, and I will miss the excitement and energy that is present whenever I teach. Words can only explain so much of what I’ve learned from my class, and the feelings and goals my students have inspired me to feel and set. I hope that in the time I have spent with these students, and the time I have left to be with them, I will have impacted their lives as much as they have impacted mine.
Mai Moua Vang
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. Although many of the students here in the countryside do not have many access to things like transportation, food, water, and money, they all are very happy with their life and appreciate what they have. I remember handing out a notebook to one of my student and her face brightened up. She thanked me and gave me a hug. I realized how much it meant to her and how I take so many things for granted. Seeing her so happy with just a notebook made me open my eyes and learn to appreciate the things that I have instead of wanting more all the time.
I never knew how hard it was to say goodbye to these students and didn’t expect any tears. Srey Leak (the girl in the middle) would always tease me and say things like, ‘I no like Rosa.’ I had a horrible stomachache today and my face was laid flat on the table. When I looked up to stretch my arms, her eyes were filled with tears. The best thing I could do was to hug her and to let her know how much I loved her along with all the other students.