Most college students think of winter break as a special, snowy time to catch up on their sleep, watch bad television, and commune with boredom, right? Well, a handful of Marlboro students took the time to do something way beyond their couch-potato comfort zone, traveling halfway around the world to Cambodia to participate in service learning projects. For the past two weeks, art faculty John Willis, Cathy Osman, and Tim Segar and five students have visited communities, participated in ESL classes in local schools, and helped with water projects. I mean, you can’t find this kind of adrenalin-pumping, eye-popping, intercultural-feel-good thrill on television, no matter how late you stay up.
This is the third service-learning trip Marlboro has taken to Cambodia in the past five years, building on relationships already forged with sustainable development groups in Cambodia and in the U.S., such as the Amherst/Cambodia Water project. The group is visiting schools in Champon Chhnang, Ang, Pursat, Siem Reap, and other communities where they are participating in service projects, testing water quality and supporting clean water efforts. They are also visiting the busy capital of Phnom Penh, the temple of Angkor, and memorials to those killed during the Khmer Rouge period.
But perhaps the most rewarding part of the trip has been the amazing people that they’re meeting along the way, people they were not so likely to find on ol’ Potash Hill or at ol’ Mocha Joe’s or shopping for socks at ol’ Sam’s. Like Buddhist novices in saffron robes at Monk Ang Pagoda, colorful merchants at market, stately elders in the villages, and of course the kids. Wherever you go, nothing like adorable kids to bring out the cultural relativist in all of us. I leave you with one of their young students in a village ESL class, below: