During the 2019 July school holidays, a team of 15 people (students, alumni and staff) spent ten days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working with Freedom International.

Upon arriving in Cambodia, we were quickly immersed in their culture and history through visits to the Killing Fields and S21 Genocide Museum where we learnt more about the atrocities that occurred at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Although difficult to take in the horror of how so many men, women and children were tortured and executed, it also gave everyone an insight into how this has shaped the Cambodia of today.

We participated in preparing Khmer meals, which included buying and cutting up a whole chicken – head, feet and all. Rice is a staple in Cambodia, so 2 cups of rice per person always accompanied our meals of spicy vegetables with fish, chicken or pork and sometimes soup. For a little extra protein, the team also got to eat frogs legs and even tried tarantulas (some said it tasted like chicken but others beg to differ).

After a long day of cleaning a four-story apartment, which included putting together bed frames that had been hauled up by crane to the third story, the team packed bags and moved to this new accommodation. Dropping into bed exhausted at around 1:00 am we were up again and on a bus at 4:00 am, headed to a school about five hours drive away.

After freeing our bus from getting bogged we finally arrived at a high school to hand out “Freedom packs” to students. The packs which we had put together a couple of days before included stationary items along with a short story brochure designed to warn young people about human trafficking. With the help of an interpreter we were able to hand out these brochures to hundreds of students.

The following day we did the same at another school before handing out brochures to hundreds of factory workers as they left work for the day. Traffickers especially target young people and those in low paying jobs. Our prayer is that many Cambodians have been saved from being tricked into slavery through our efforts.

The team had many challenges along the way however, they consistently kept a positive attitude and made the most of the circumstances they found themselves in. As we shared the ups and downs on our trip, the team grew together and a seed of love for the people of Cambodia was planted in our hearts.