Camps International – Cambodia Expedition 2019

Pushing their comfort zones to the outer limits, six of our students travelled to Cambodia in July 2019 to take part in a Camps International 4-week expedition. Casey Devlin, Bronagh Leonard, Zara McGrath and Lisa Denton, Year 13, along with Lauren Gaynor and Caitlin Houston, Year 12, were led by Dr Laura O’Dolan on this incredible trip. The girls formed part of a composite travelling group with three other schools from Northern Ireland and when on expedition, joined a wider range of teams from throughout Ireland and the UK. They engaged in a range of exciting initiatives to assist local communities through wildlife, environment and community projects. Some of the life changing projects that these amazing students threw their hearts and souls into were:

  • Making concrete rings to sink into the ground for the drainage chambers of toilets and wells for local villagers
  • Hand mixing tonnes of concrete to make giant water storage pots
  • Building/improving houses for families living in deplorable conditions
  • Helping local school children with their English lessons
  • Building a safety wall in a local school to combat flooding and soil erosion in the playground
  • Maintaining the village dam walls to ensure the water supply for local farmers’ fields
  • Starting work on a path for a local school so the students don’t have to walk through mud in the rainy season
  • Building chicken coops for local families so they can have a source of income and food
  • Planting banana trees at a local school to provide shade and fresh fruit for the students
  • Replanting Mahogany and Teak saplings to combat mass deforestation and illegal logging activities

Julie Lax (Schools Support Coordinator) from Camps International visited our school on Monday 9th of September to formally acknowledge the work of these students. She was full of praise for their endeavors and said, “Their work ethic and determination were an inspiration to everyone.  They helped make a huge, lasting and positive impact on the lives of many people in rural communities and worked tirelessly to help protect our embattled environment”.

Whilst in Cambodia the students learned about the Khmer Rouge regime by visiting the S21 Prison and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. They got to explore the wonders of Angkor Wat Temples and challenged themselves by completing the PADI Open Water Scuba course. They learned how to cook sticky bamboo rice, overcame the ‘shock’ of cold-water bucket showers, squat toilets and creepy crawlies and mastered the skill of hand washing their clothes and hanging them on a line to dry. Other highlights included receiving a water blessing from the local monks and watching and joining in with the traditional Aspara Dancers

Being co-located with many of the rural communities enabled the girls to fully immerse themselves in the local cultures. They saw first-hand the daily struggles some people experience in order to go about their normal lives and the limited options young people have to develop their education and career prospects.  The girls returned with a renewed and heightened sense of the opportunities available to them, thankful for their homes that have electricity and hot and cold running water; their school with all the modern technology and facilities, and their families who have supported them so far. The lessons these brave girls have learnt from their expedition will be carried in their hearts and minds, to be used and adapted throughout their lives.

The girls are extremely grateful to all who supported them in their fundraising events prior to departure. They also received much appreciated sponsorship from a number of businesses: Barry Curran Optometrist, First Trust Bank, Calvert Office Equipment, Woodvale Construction Company, Dessie Collins Electrical, Icon eBusiness, and Eugene Donnelly Painter and Decorator.  They would also like to acknowledge McCullagh’s Spar for street collection, B&M Bargains for bag-packing opportunities, Dr Kevin Moore / Order of Malta for providing the required First Aid Kit and Stamina Sports for sponsoring personalised expedition jerseys.