Marist Solidarity Immersion – Cambodia 2019

Tour updates, photos and other information.

Day 12: Phnom Penh- Giacomo Carbone
by Susan Kiernan - Saturday, 14 December 2019, 10:06 AM

Today saw the pilgrims visit a number of places across Phnom Penh, where we would learn of the eerily recent horrors of the Khmer Rouge during the reign of Pol Pot. It is with great sorrow that I, along with the others reflect upon the learnings of today.

We were first struck by the impact of Tabitha. They have helped hundreds of thousands of Cambodian families to work their way out of poverty through education about saving money, raising crops and animals, building homes, and many more extraordinary pathways. Millions of dollars have been earned have been earned by thousands of families who previously had nothing. It is truly heartwarming to see the success of such organisations who try to play their part in improving their society. As someone who is extremely lucky to have been born into a good life, it is clear that such a privileged position should be used to help those less ...

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Day 7: Pailin - Rhys Moody
by Sarah Carmody - Monday, 9 December 2019, 1:18 AM

Today was a pretty relaxing day with a well-deserved sleep-in for all the pilgrims. As usual we started the day with a lovely breakfast provided by Brother Francis, a true gift to all the boys and demonstration of all the Marist characteristics. After this we were able to sit in a truly magic Mass given to use by Father Carlos. During the Mass the community was mourning the death of a young 19-year-old. The boy’s mother was in the Mass today and is the cleaner of the Church. Father Carlos gave us a good insight in his homily about repenting; he said that we’re all sinners, no one is perfect but that isn’t what we are here for. He told us that our purpose in life is to find true happiness and peace with what it is we do and ourselves. Within the Mass, I felt a very special feeling with all the songs and the different cultures. I also found it quite remarkable to see more ...

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Day 11: Phnom Penh - Jack Meehan
by Sarah Carmody - Friday, 13 December 2019, 12:56 AM

Greetings from Cambodia,

Although my time in Pailin was relatively short, the lessons I learnt during my time there will stay with me forever. Brother Max’s presentation about building bridges codified, for me, the mission of the Marist Brothers and allowed me to realise what my mission in Pailin is. A memory that will stay with me is seeing all the faces of the children we taught, you could see it in their eyes and in their smiles that there was no hate, only love. This is something that we can incorporate into our own lives, being full of love, not hate and loving those people that get on your nerves. Hearing the story of the women who lost her son, she said something that really struck me, “They [the government] don’t care about you, if you are poor.” Hearing this opened my eyes to the reality for many people in Cambodia, because they do not have enough money, they ...

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Day 10: Pailin - Stephen Carpinteri
by Sarah Carmody - Thursday, 12 December 2019, 1:52 AM

Today was our last full day of both teaching and being in Pailin. Most of us started the day at 6:30 am, although many of us were woken early to the blaring sound of a Buddhist celebration happening nearby to the hotel. After breakfast we travelled to a village school in outer Pailin, which was very much different to the Marist school we have become used to. At break time, we were trying to tell the kids to come and play but they did not move until they were told in Khmer, which resulted in a stampede of children running towards us. Many of the children were playing soccer where I was the goalkeeper trying to defend the 30 balls coming towards me. It was a great experience as, although their English was limited, we were still able to develop relationships and communicate with each other through body and facial expression.

We then headed back for lunch to the Marist ...

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Day 9: Pailin - Daniel Reid
by Sarah Carmody - Tuesday, 10 December 2019, 7:20 PM

Today started off as per usual with a 6:45am wakeup and delicious breakfast of pastries and pancakes from Brother Francis. As today was a public holiday here in Cambodia (International Human Rights Day), we had the day off from teaching, however we were put to work around the school cleaning up litter, moving furniture and other small jobs. I spent my morning replacing the tiling of the floor in some of the teachers’ bedrooms and kitchens. I was working with a man named Phan, who is a father of some of the children from the school. Despite speaking absolutely no English, he was able to teach me how to tile and concrete through his hand and body gestures. This is just one example of how we have been able to communicate with the children of the school and build such strong relationships with them, without needing to physically speak to one another.

We then travelled to the border of Thailand. As it is illegal to gamble in Thailand, they have built giant casinos right next to the border in Cambodia, this way the Thais can simply walk less then 100 metres across the border to play the slots and gamble all they like. These gigantic casinos in Pailin greatly contrasted the tiny houses or shacks that these poor, suffering people of Pailin call home.

Something that has also stood out for me across the whole trip, is how generous the people of Pailin are. Whenever the children have been given any food, they are quick to offer their siblings or friends half of it. The reason this has really gotten through to me is because although these people have so little, they are always more then willing to share with each other.

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Day 8: Pailin - Luca Bacon
by Sarah Carmody - Tuesday, 10 December 2019, 12:49 AM

Greetings from Cambodia.

Today was a pretty similar day to Friday; filled with teaching, soccer and kids screaming the days of the week. It began with a spectacular breakfast from Brother Francis: doughnuts, waffles and Cambodian pancakes. Following this was a competitive game of soccer. We received a shock when it became apparent that we were actually challenged by a few 8-year-old kids, which spoke volumes about our lack of proficiency in soccer. After this, the classes began, where we role-played conversations aloud together and taught some greetings. The classes finished on a high where we tried – and failed – to teach the Nutbush to the students. The rest of the day ran smoothly, finishing the school day by having conversations with some of the older students.

A personal highlight of the day was when I attempted to climb a tree. In the process, I managed to break a branch and cut my face, most likely due to my athletic incompetency. Aside from being a standard day with songs and dances frequently repeated, it never ceased to fulfil us when a smile stretched across their face and their eyes beamed with joy. What made this even more inspiring is that most of the children had a limited understanding of English, and yet this did not restrict their happiness. This raw happiness is not only inspiring, but educates us in life’s true message, that love and kindness transcend the boundaries between us.

From Luca and the Cambodian team.

(Ps. A message from staff: Luca’s face is fine!)

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Day 6: Pailin - Baxter Evans
by Sarah Carmody - Sunday, 8 December 2019, 1:17 AM

Today was a significant day in the immersion. It was the day we got to see the children outside of a school environment. The day started with 3 hours of hard work on Brother Francis’ garden, levelling it out in order for him to be able to grow some vegetables in his backyard. At 12:30 the group headed to a resort in the hills of Pailin with dozens of students for an afternoon in the pool. Today was the day that made me realise that, despite all of our differences, us and these children are so similar. There were kids backflipping, kicking soccer balls and chasing each other around the pool. Being here in Pailin, it’s so easy to see that kids are kids, no matter where they’re from.

Upon returning to the Marist Centre with the children, a little 4 year old boy named Panna came and sat with me. Panna is from one of the poorest families at the school and he clearly doesn’t have much to wear or much to eat. Almost instantly, however, he offered me some of the food he had just bought across the road. This is the moment that has stood out to me so far on this immersion, the generosity and kindness of these people never ceases to amaze me. This has truly been an eye opening experience for the whole group.

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Day 5: Pailin - Liam Helliar
by Sarah Carmody - Saturday, 7 December 2019, 2:31 AM

Today was our first full day of involving ourselves in the Pailin community. When we arrived at the Marist Education Center we immediately felt how exciting and challenging the upcoming week will be. As we left the bus we were swarmed with children. They started showing us around and started a soccer game. Soon we joined the kids in a dance, something I don't think I would ever do before the immersion. This to me was further proof of how I am changing as a person over this immersion, even though we are only 6 days in. Over those days I've noticed I have become more confident and more willing to participate. Being in Pailin without any connection to the "outside world" has been a great experience for me. It feels like we are completely isolated and Pailin is our world. It forces our complete attention to the community whilst pushing us out of our comfort zones. 

Leading the classes was terrifying to start as we had no structure or ideas; these fears quickly faded away as we found ourselves connecting to the children more and more. It was fascinating to see how much the kids wanted to learn. We were making them read and spell various words and nearly all of them wanted to have a go, even the ones who weren't as good at English. They jumped on every opportunity to participate in activities and ask us questions like the spelling of certain words. 

We also took a more advanced class later in the day. We found ourselves in a similar situation where we didn't have any plan in what we were teaching. Once we had our plan it felt simple and natural. It was exciting to see what we will be doing for the next week and to see immediate growth in the relationship between the group.

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Day 3: Siem Reap to Pailin - Giacomo Carbone
by Sarah Carmody - Thursday, 5 December 2019, 1:05 AM

As today was a long travel day, it has been a time for many of the pilgrims to sit with ourselves and reflect on the experiences of the past couple of days. In the travelling from Siem Reap to Pailin, I too have been trying to make sense of just how I feel about all of this.

Although Cambodia is a country whose culture, lifestyle and layout appears vastly different to home, the true wonders of this place seem to reside beyond what meets the eye.

There is much that the pilgrims are yet to see, but during our brief introduction to the chaotic lives of the Khmer people in Siem Reap, I’ve been peacefully touched by a certain serenity beneath it all. Perhaps an appreciation for life’s inherent beauty, for the value of family and friendship, a respect and embrace of tradition and culture. Only one word comes to mind in trying to make sense of this: love.

For some years ...

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Day 4: Pailin - Luca Mills
by Sarah Carmody - Friday, 6 December 2019, 1:24 AM

Today we began our day with a talk on the Marist mission from Brother Max. He shared concepts such as not being a blacksmith in the digital age and not answering questions from the past that are irrelevant today. Building bridges was then shared as the end goal, along with taking care of the world’s ecology.

Later the group moved onto our first physical project which involved laying the foundation for a driveway to assist the Brothers in being able to park in the rainy season without fear of sinking. This brought out a new team bond in the group who worked well together to make easy work of the job.

In the afternoon we got to finally see the kids who we were nervously excited to meet. It was out of most of our comfort zones; fear of the unknown was clear, but the session gave myself a feeling that is indescribable and something that can only be felt; that of feeling good by giving to someone else. All of us felt challenged by it, but by the end we were all proud of what we could provide to the people who need it.

We are all looking forward to the opportunity to continue building bonds with the children in the community.