More than just a holiday in Cambodia

Tuesday, 08 April 2014

A volunteer project in Cambodia has proven to be an education like no other for information technology student Vivien Ramos, of Success.

Studying a Diploma of Information Technology at Challenger Institute of Technology, Vivien travelled to Cambodia as part of the institute’s corporate social responsibility program, Challenger Cares.

The program, which kicked off this year with projects in India and Cambodia, provides Challenger students with the opportunity to help underprivileged children and young people improve their academic and employment prospects.

Cambodia is known for its breathtaking Angkor Wat temples, but it is also a country plagued with endemic poverty.

“I have to admit that what initially got me interested in the global mobility program in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, was the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat,” Vivien said.

“I had no idea what to expect from our trip but the prospect of visiting Angkor Wat and the Sihanoukville beaches in the south was certainly tempting.

“What I hadn’t expected was to leave Cambodia, where we taught IT skills to staff from One-2-One, with an entirely new perspective on life.”

Challenger Institute’s international relations manager Martin Turnbull said the inaugural overseas Challenger Cares programs were a resounding success.

“The students found the trips life-defining and their experiences have the potential to influence their future careers,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Global mobility programs such as these allow Challenger students to improve their graduate and employability outcomes, as more than 80 per cent of employers believe graduates who undertake an overseas experience return to Australia with enhanced skills.”

Vivien said it was invigorating to be put in a position in which she had to use inventiveness and spontaneity to relate to the Cambodian students. 

“By the second day, we were teaching our students about MS Paint and Excel,” she said.

“I was really surprised how fast they learnt. Some had never used the programs before but produced amazing drawings and work.

“I could see the desperate faces of students eager to ask us a lot of questions but since a lot of them did not speak English at all, they were hesitant to talk to us.

“As we spent more time with them, however, they learnt to be at ease with us. We really got to see their hard work, dedication and passion to learn.”

Vivien said the initial lure of Cambodian travel did eventuate.

“We worked four days each week and were given three days off to visit two places,” she said.

“Our first weekend away was a visit to Siem Reap to see the incomparable Angkor Wat, while the second week away was to Sihanoukville’s marvellous beachside.”

Vivien said her abiding memory of Cambodia would be of the Cambodian people.

“They are very respectful to each other and taught us so much, such as Khmer dancing and cooking, but they also shared valuable lessons in life that had a great impact on me and, I believe, all of us who stayed there,” she said.

“They showed us kindness, generosity and demonstrated a great love towards their country and people.

“They taught us that no matter how little you have, how limited your resources, through helping each other you can reach your dreams as long as you put your whole mind and heart into it.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Challenger Institute student Vivien Ramos at the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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