This morning, the pilgrims were awoken for the last time at 6:45 for an early breakfast at the hotel. We then departed on tuk tuks for Tabitha. Tabitha is an organisation which works closely with the poorest of the Cambodian people in order to teach them how to save and build a better future for themselves. They also employ and support women who were formally in the sex trade and are taught how to sow and make products to sell out of Cambodian silk (they make things like linen, handbags, ties and even Christmas decorations). At Tabitha we were given a presentation on the work they do. It was really uplifting to know that there is an organisation out there that helps the poorest of the community and teaches them important life skills like saving and money management that the rest of us take for granted. We were then given the opportunity to browse and buy some of their handmade products. Some of us used the last or our money to buy quality products for ourselves or for others as gifts.
Later we returned for the hotel for our final reflection. This involved revealing the person we have been praying for (on the first day we each were given a person to look out and pray for over the course of the trip), giving a gift to them, and saying what this trip has meant to us. Some mentioned that the trip has been a spiritual growth journey while others said that it has challenged their faith. For me, I was most amazed at how welcoming the people of Cambodia are and how willing they are to give. It really makes me want to emulate that in my everyday life. Undoubtably, most of us found the meaning of the immersion from our time in Pailin. Remembering the amazing people we were lucky enough to meet there including those who dedicate their lives to the education of those kids, such as the brothers (especially Brother Francis). Everyone found it to be really valuable to reflect on the trip and share what each of us has learnt from it. Furthermore, the affirmation and gift giving with the person we have been praying for was a very fun, happy and also emotional experience for all of us. Each of us had some time to stand up and thank/acknowledge the others contribution to the group and mention specific interactions with that person during the immersion.
After lunch, we returned to the hotel to freshen up and pack our things. All the pilgrims then got on the bus and prepared for a long journey back home. Everyone has mixed emotions about going home. Some are looking forward to seeing their families again and having some much needed sleep, while others wish that our time in Cambodia would last longer. Others, including me, are experiencing a wide mix of emotions as we say goodbye to a country that has been so welcoming. Cambodia now has a special place in all of our hearts and I’m sure that many of us will be come back in the future. As said in the Marist Solidarity Document 2009, (which was used in our nightly reflection)“...mission is not just a matter of doing things for people. It is first of all a matter of being with people, of listening to and sharing with them”. This immersion has given us a taste of Catholic Marist mission, sparking a desire to serve, be with, listen to and share with those in need.