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Cambodia - service learning

By Murray Bourne, 24 Nov 2005

Some of our students recently went on a service learning project in Cambodia. They travelled to Banlung, a very remote area of eastern Cambodia. The main activity was to document local culture, including legends, stories, myths, etc.

They were obviously moved by this maturing experience. By living there, they had to learn some survival skills.

Their experiences included:

• Eating fried tarantulas
• Crowding all 24 of them for 12 hours on a pickup truck to get to the village
• Noticed deforestation
• Due to their being no TV, a return to a love of drawing (that had been killed by secondary school experiences)
• Learnt the value of water
• Learnt to cook
• Seeing families trawling through trash for items to sell. Also, becoming aware of the environmental impacts of constant trash burning, and a constantly dusty and smokey atmosphere.
• Learnt Cambodian dance
• Experienced different concepts of time (slower and more relaxed)
• Realised that there is real value in pre-technology village life
• Agonised over whether to give to the beggars
• Realised that decisions by some governments ensure that other countries remain poor
• Learnt to be happy with what they have

My observation - students can communicate very effectively when they have been involved in profound, authentic learning experiences.

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