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Service Programs

Malaysian Youth Touch Hearts of Cambodian Students

Report in Cambodian | Photo report

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Almost a year ago, students from the Southeast Asia Children Charity Community “Together We Share” program convened a conference with students from four universities and resolved to raise funds and send a team of students to Cambodia to provide support for less fortunate children. Since then, through fundraisers and door-to-door solicitations, they raised over US$5,000 for Cambodian children.

With the help of logistics teams from Universal Peace Federation in Malaysia and Cambodia, 13 students from this group went to Cambodia May 14-21 to fulfill a promise and a commitment.

As you fly into Phnom Penh airport, you see below a vast undeveloped land, shimmering pools of rice cultivation, and dense forests. From the cocoon of the bus the city revealed itself through bicycles, motorbikes, motorized rickshaws, and cars. Everywhere people were on the streets; the energy and excitement of constant activity was everywhere. The architecture is French and business is open to the street. You pass every possible business, with similar businesses adjacent to each other. People wear loose colorful clothing; the heat and humidity could be considered unbearable if you’re not from Asia.

Later that afternoon, the United Nations International Day of Families and International Youth Leadership Conference was held at Cambodian Mekong University. Over 150 Malaysian and Cambodian students met and mingled and began building friendships. Malaysian students gave an inspiring presentation on the collective efforts it took to create this service project.

Nicholas Lee, the humanitarian genius behind the “Power of 10 sen,” (a project that has children donating a 10-sen coin a day for other children) and By Children For Children, so inspired the audience that Cambodian students spontaneously began raising money for a “Power of 100 reil” campaign. Since Nicholas first met the Southeast Asia Children Charity Community, he committed to be the overall project leader and worked tirelessly to ensure that every small detail was covered, and there were many.

The sun comes out at 5:00 am in Cambodia, so people rise early. After breakfast a bus overloaded with Malaysian and Cambodian students headed to Trapiang Anchang's School. Being Sunday, the school was closed, and we were told not to expect too much help. As the bus pulled up, 50 primary school students eager to help were lined up waiting.

On the left as you walked into the school's central area there were three finished classrooms with chairs and tables but no books. On the right, another three classrooms were being built one brick at a time by teenage craftsmen. In the center of the buildings was a children's delight and an adult’s nightmare, a large pile of dirt. The children gleefully ran up and down the hill while the adults realized that the dirt had to be moved in flat straw baskets to fill in holes. Everyone pitched in, Cambodian students, Malaysian students, little kids; sweat was pouring off everyone.

Just before lunch, a Cambodian medical student shared his vision of a new movement of students committed to poor children. Another shared the shock at what the countryside actually looked like, having never been out of Phnom Penh. A particular act of courage was the son of a Khmer Rouge official sharing how for 19 years his family constantly relocated because of the war. In 1998 he went to school for the first time and completed k-6 in one year. He’s now at the university on a scholarship.

Malaysian students expressed deep appreciation for what they had and how moved they were by children who had no real toys but were happy and joyful. Through this mutual act of service, a bond was built between Cambodian and Malaysian students, who committed to work together in the future.

Next we traveled to Salam Nurul Iman Phnom Perik Ring Islamic School, in a remote Muslim village where women stay home — a wooden shanty on stilts, with no electricity or sewage system, sleeping in hammocks or on the floor. Here you suspend your preconditions of how people should be and walk back 100 years in time. Walls were scraped and new paint applied, food distributed, and piles of new learning material were given out. But the real passion came when the students began teaching the children and experienced their thirst for knowledge.

Students spent the night at a special house prepared by the village. As we left, many had tears streaming down their faces. When someone you never met offers everything they have, there are no barriers, only pure love.

Finally we arrived at the Mother Teresa Center, where the dying are abandoned and HIV/AIDS patients live, and die. Everyone here knows they are dying, yet it was a place of laughter, joy, and happiness.

The opportunity to provide service to others causes your heart to open deeper and wider.

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