As we always say to our participants – “This programme is but the beginning of your journey!” We hope they’ll continue to use the skills and knowledge they’ve learned to benefit the underprivileged, whether as returning alumni or in their individual capacities as volunteers.

Here are some thoughts from our participants from our recent Sustainability and Progress Programme to Siem Reap. 

Seak Jing Rong’s thoughts on her areas of personal growth:

The trip definitely taught me to care more about the people in Cambodia and the world. And I would love to do more volunteer work in the near future. And when I offer them a smile of mine, they would happily return it with a smile of theirs. 

And I learned that we should respect Cambodians and not take photos of the people there without their permission because they have their own pride and dignity. It is just like we would think it is weird if people from even more affluent places came to Singapore, walked around in our neighborhoods and started taking photos of people or grabbing random strangers to take photos with them. 

Geraldine Abigail Ngu’s thoughts on getting out of her comfort zone:

I boarded the plane leaving Singapore with a heart full of doubts and hesitation. I'll (shamefully) admit that I was dreading the physical work we would have to do, being a delicate city girl who had never gotten her hands dirty. I guess many of us have this same stereotype of community work - you get your hands dirty and you'll give, give, give and receive nothing.

Cliche as it might sound, truth is, I boarded the plane back to Singapore firmly believing that I've gained so much more than I gave in this trip. I've travelled to various countries and I've seen many famous landmarks, but it is only on this trip that I truly got to experience everyday life in another country. In spite of the severe language barrier, we were enveloped into the village by every individual we interacted with; be it the young children whom we played many games with, or the ladies who were part of the softies programme by HUSK (which is amazing, by the way. I bought a homemade softie myself). [...] We received the affection from the villagers and the chance to enter their world which, besides being an amazing experience, gave me many new eye-opening perspectives.

And on what she has learned to appreciate:

Hearing about the issues in Cambodia and the developing world in the comfort of our schools or in our homes, it is so easy for many of us city folk to develop a desensitized view to the society and issues in the developing world. I believe for the majority, the only impression of these countries are the various social or economic issues that they face. Though the Cambodians might not enjoy the kind of material luxury we do (yes, like the luxury of light bulbs at night), their society is a complex, intricate one, and their community is so vibrant and dynamic. I guess this was something I tended to overlook in the past, but now I am able to appreciate the beauty of the village society and I have realised that we are really not all that different; for example, that girl talk (about boys) is universal ;)

Nurul Amirah Bte Rozaini chimes in on not being arrogrant:

Before embarking on this trip, the most prominent thought I had of Cambodia was that of almost everyone else’s - it is a third world country and it’s sad. Believe me when I say it was an eye-opener, that Cambodia, despite it’s stereotyped plight of being a poor country, taught all of us many new precious beautiful lessons about its people and its values, and ultimately, ourselves as individuals in our society. […] The main takeaway that I hold on to, with regard to the people, was the lingering and solemn question of “What if our places were swapped?” What if I were to be born in the same exact plight that a fellow Cambodian girl living in the slums was born into? Would I be able to handle it with the dignity and perseverance that these children and teenagers bear?

It was really humbling for all of us. These people are certainly as capable as any of us; they just simply were not fortunate enough to be born in a supportive society and country like Singapore. However, that doesn’t mean that they are any less of an ordinary individual than we are; they have feelings, opinions and thoughts of their own, just like us. That day I truly learnt the importance of not being arrogant.