Students enjoy trip of a lifetime volunteering in Cambodia
A group of 26 pupils enjoyed the adventure of a lifetime after travelling more than 6000 miles to Battambang Province in Cambodia as part of a global citizenship programme run by the Challenges Abroad organisation.
Having secured government funding for the trip, the group of 11 Year 12 students from Springwood High in Kings Lynn and one Year 11 pupil from Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, as well as three members of staff, spent just over two weeks working in local schools.
Their volunteer input enabled local pupils to double the amount of time they spent at school, and the visitors also had time to experience the cultural delights of one of Asia’s most exciting tourist destinations.
Student Jack Bolderstone said: "I didn’t really know what I was expecting from our Cambodia trip but it surpassed every expectation I had - it was amazing.
"Ranging from trying local food to teaching conversational English to children, I embraced it all and I truly believe I developed as a person whilst away. Food was the main talking point on a regular basis, I discovered some amazing dishes that I would’ve never normally tried at home."
Fellow Springwood student Willow Turner added: "Leading into the Cambodia trip I was petrified but excited. I was nervous to travel for the first time since Covid and had never experienced a culture so far from my reality.
"However, once we had settled into life in Cambodia I didn’t want to leave. I learned so much from the children that we worked with and I hope that we made a positive impact on them.
"The highlight of the trip for me was dancing in the rain with all of my friends. I felt that everyone bonded with each other and it set a fantastic tone for the rest of the trip."
And Libby Davies said: "This opportunity is one I will never forget. To travel across the world to make a difference is something extraordinary.
"Learning something new every day and adapting to new situations was a challenge but the rewarding feeling of seeing your participation making a difference was worth it a million times and more. "
Challenges Abroad offers a combination of overseas adventure challenges and charity volunteer work for student groups, and has sent thousands of young people out to six destinations across three continents to inspire them to find out more about the world around them, and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi quoted on their website, “be the change you want to see”.
“Extra curricular opportunities are widely promoted to all students and all students leave Springwood having participated in something – it is important to build character,” said Springwood’s head teacher, Andrew Johnson.
“This is the first time we have been able to offer anything like this, and we also have another group who will soon be going to Thailand, so we hope it can become that we are able to offer on a regular basis.”
Both Springwood and Smithdon are members of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which runs 11 schools across the region, and of which Mr Johnson is the executive head teacher.
He said the Cambodia and Thailand trips were exactly the sort of additional activities that the Trust wanted to promote among its schools, particularly after the disruption of the pandemic.
“This trip aligns with our beliefs of promoting sustainability and helping those that are less fortunate than us,” he added.