Siem Reap, Cambodia. As soon as you step off that plane you get a huge ‘whoosh’ of warm air. Of course, you start sweating almost immediately.
This was no ordinary trip. None of the ‘typical tourist activities’ were done. I didn’t take a trick picture that made it look like I was holding up a smiling Buddha in Angkor Thom, I didn’t stay in a luxurious hotel, and it was definitely not a time to just relax and rest. This was an intense service trip.
Thanks to the wonderful help of the HUSK NGO, we built a house and gained some teaching experience throughout the trip. At the Kopheim village, on the outskirts of Siem Reap, past all the rice fields, we were wonderfully greeted with smiles all around and the wonderful smell of curry cooking.
We would work there for three days. We got to meet the family that we would be rebuilding their house for; a type one poor family. In Cambodia, the poorer citizens are classified into three groups, type one, type two, and type three. Type three citizens are the people who can afford to eat and have a roof over their head but don’t have any extra money to spend. Type two families can afford to eat most days but are still mostly in debt. Finally, there’s the type three families who have to skip meals sometimes, and have holes in the roof of their homes.
The lovely home owners, with smiles stretched cheek to cheek, greeted us warmly and politely. As our tour guide, Lim, had said “Cambodian people are the nicest people in the world”.
The HUSK NGO has truly been an immense help to the poor Cambodian families. Not only taking on house building projects for type one poor families, but they also built a school and working centre for the Softies Ladies, which both have a foundation made out of plastic bottles stuffed with trash. In addition, they provide teaching Cambodian children how to speak English and basic life skills.
The school was built with a foundation of plastic bottles filled with trash. All of the bottles are stacked together, and they form a base for concrete to be poured on. They serve as an excellent and eco friendly substitute to bricks. Once it’s finished, it looks like a regular building that you see everyday. For the village homes, any volunteer is able to go with a group of workers from HUSK and do two tasks; physically making the framing of the walls, which are made with bamboo sticks, and later imbedding leaves into the walls to provide coverage.
Going beyond building homes and schools, they also help young adults with crucial life skills such as taxes, managing finances, etc. In addition, HUSK has a service called Softies Ladies which offers a job to poor women in the local community. The women make objects, such as toys and stationary, out of donated clothing. They can choose the hours that are convenient for them so they are able to take care of their children or their household when they need to.
For the construction of the village homes, first, a bamboo frame had to be made to serve as the walls. Several bamboo sticks would be nailed together to form the frame. Next, leaves that were already cut to the proper size would have to be attached to the frames in a special weaving sequence, with the help of thin aluminium wires. Finally, the finished walls would be put up surrounding the house.
When we had finished building the house for the day, we would take another shaky tuk-tuk ride to the nearby HUSK school where we would have the opportunity of teaching local children how to speak English. I have never been in a room with more excitement and laughter. The bright sun shone right through the door as we waited for all the children to come in and take their seats. With loud, hyper voices, and big gleaming excited smiles, all of the children yelled “Hello everyone! Hello teachers! Hello everyone!” as we walked in ready to commence our lesson.
HUSK provides the village children with a free English education so that they can get jobs in the city as tour guides, hotel workers, etc. and end the poverty cycle in their family.
It provides amazing opportunities for many villages, including Kopheim. All schools, private groups, or anyone who is willing to, can contribute to HUSK’s various projects by either physically going to the villages and doing labor work or making a donation online.
For just a couple days, I was not relaxing by the pool or taking a rest, but I got something much better. An endearing experience that I will truly never forget. The beautiful image of a smiling child and a happy family living in their well-deserved home is something that will forever be imprinted in my mind.
The text type that I chose was the classic travel magazine article. I tried to put a little bit of comedy in my piece by including some puns or sarcastic comments throughout it because I don’t like my work to be completely serious – I always like to have fun with it.
For my topic, I chose to focus my article on the service on the trip because it was really a memorable experience for me. I used to not be a big fan of service but this trip really opened my eyes to how much fun I can have building a house with my friends or just playing around and teaching local kids. In the moment, it is really fun to be playing with the kids and having a good time, but afterwards it feels even better because I know that I have made an impact on those kids’ lives and that they have made an impact on mine.
My main purpose was to really get the message out there that service can be fun. It’s not just work you do for credit or because you have to. It’s a whole lot of fun in the moment and afterwards you just feel great. The audience that I tried to reach to with my article are people who are willing to give up staying at a nice resort and just lounging around the pool, but instead do some pretty hard work, whether it’s building a house like I did or hiking up a mountain to help people in need.
Overall, I just wanted to share my experience doing a large amount of service for the first time with everyone because it really meant a lot to me and it is something that I will remember.
Text by Avril Delgado. This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine March 2018 issue “Design for Living”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.