Romina’s Cambodia Reflection

Upon completion of seven wonderful months at Don Bosco Technical School (DBTS) Phnom Penh, it seems timely to reflect on the journey so far and share some of our experiences with the Salesian community back home in Australia. Perhaps I should start by mentioning that they sure don’t call Cambodia the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ for nothing. Khmer culture and tradition is as bright and rich as any other – we have fallen in love with many Cambodian rituals; namely the various dancing related traditions.

Inasmuch as this country has captured us with its vibrance and personality, the Kingdom of Wonder has often left us ‘wondering’. We wonder why most of the population still lives on $2 a day and why getting even a basic education still proves so difficult for many young Khmer people.

We’ve come to see and understand Don Bosco Technical School as a beacon of hope and opportunity for Cambodia’s poorest youth. It couldn’t be clearer that our school is providing a service to the young that is scarcely available elsewhere. While other NGO’s and institutions are providing education to poor youth, Don Bosco is providing much more. Students at Don Bosco receive a formation and education for life. We really feel like a part of the Cambodian Don Bosco family and feel so blessed to live among such fantastic and humorous missionary priests and brothers.

The beginning of any international volunteering experience can be tedious, given the obvious cultural and language barriers that exist. The warm welcome I received from my students and their continued gratitude toward me really made my transition into Cambodian life and culture exceptionally smooth. I very soon realised that there are a few things that Cambodian young people and Australian young people have in common. Namely, it is that they are both young and that they are both people. The global nature of the Salesian family is of course testament to this. I’ve come to appreciate that all young people want to be loved, and need to know that they are loved. It is for this reason that Don Bosco’s vision and philosophy transcends culture, national borders and even religion. It has been a wonderful privilege to become part of Cambodia’s Salesian family, contributing to the work of Don Bosco in the Kingdom of Wonder.

My role here is as English ESL teacher for Second Year students. In August, I said goodbye to my beautiful students as they finished up at Don Bosco and began their SIPT full time work placements. Melissa began her mission here working with Fr Roel on marketing material for the school and dedicated most of her time to creating a much needed new website, aimed at providing foreigners, potential donors and volunteers with information and an insight into the school. After deciding early on to continue her mission here for a full 12 months, Melissa took up the position of English Grammar teacher for First Year students. With Melissa taking on the role, the entire English department is now run by volunteers.

We are hoping the website will be launched soon to open the door to online donations and eventually online t-shirt orders; meaning that individuals school printing department. This will provide us with much needed funds and invaluable work experience for printing students.

Melissa and I are looking forward to starting the new teaching year at the beginning of October. The greatest source of growth for the two of us has undoubtedly been the connections and relationships we have established with the students. As the great Maya Angelou told us, ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Though the faces of the young people of Cambodia may eventually fade from our memories, the love they have made us feel and the beautiful marks they have left in our hearts will never leave us.

If you are interested in volunteering just like Melissa and Romina please visit our website

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