Mercy in Action – Cambodia Immersion Tour

ជំរាបសួរ   (hello in Khmer)

The Santa Maria College Cambodia immersion is designed to expose students to both cultural and service experiences in the cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. At the conclusion of the 2018 school year, 15 graduate students and three staff left for the amazing Kingdom of Cambodia.

In the bustling city of Phnom Penh, students learnt about the modern history of Cambodia by visiting places such as the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Although confronting, this is an essential part of the history of modern Cambodia and highlights the resilience of its beautiful people.

The students participated in a service project at Missione Possibile School in Takeo Province. This is a school which has been very successful in retaining rural students. In the three years I have been part of the immersion, I have seen it grow from a primary school to a K-12. The additional classrooms were partly funded by our Mercy Day donations.After the chaos of the city, it is a contrast to arrive in Siem Reap where students learnt about the ancient history of Cambodia – the Khmer Kingdom which was once the most powerful and prosperous centre of South-East Asia. A visit to the temple of Angkor Wat and its surrounds proves this. It was refreshing to stay with Sister Denise Coghlan RSM, who works with the Jesuit Refugee Service out of the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre. It is always a feeling of coming home when we arrive. Students visit schools and rural villages and complete a rather demanding service project where they contribute to building a house, funded again by Mercy Day donations. This house was on the Thai border, in a rural village just outside of Anlong Veng, where many of the people are landmine victims. The girls work long hours in the heat, with rudimentary equipment. However, the real joy was not in finishing the build but in meeting the families and the children of the village and making a human connection.I was regularly overcome with emotion, but not really surprised at the meaningful and sincere reflections the students made about the experience. Many are already planning to return and volunteer. Some are raising funds to buy a well for the families we met in Siem Reap. They truly are Mercy women in action and as staff we were so proud of the girls. Many thanks to the College executive for supporting the immersion and to staff members Jillian Landers and Natalie Munro for travelling with me.

Clare O’Connor, Head of Religious Education

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