MANY students use the school holidays to sleep in and binge-watch television, but 16 St Rita’s College girls spent their winter break building toilet blocks for a remote community in Cambodia.
Stepping onto the plane on June 16, the Year 11 students, accompanied by three staff members, including principal Dale Morrow, abandoned the comforts of their families and homes and embarked on a two-week immersion to Cambodia.
As they entered into a country stricken by poverty, with 14 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, the students embraced the challenge of building two outside toilets for families in Romchek Village.
Deputy principal Maree Trims said the girls, who have no previous experience in construction, “were very enthusiastic for the entire build” and learnt how to mix concrete with sand, lay bricks and hopefully, create a straight wall.
“Seeing the joy on the faces of the families was heart warming,” she said.
Throughout the trip, many of the students were confronted with the harsh realties of poverty, as most of the houses don’t have electricity or running water.
One of the local guides even told the group electricity wouldn’t be made available to locals until 2020.
Teacher Terese Casey, who was on the trip, said the girls saw how “privileged” life in Australia could be.
“This is such a wonderful experience for our girls to see how privileged they are, not only in their daily lives but also to be a part of this enriching experience,” Mrs Casey said.
As well as travelling to Romchek Village, the group also spent fives days in Phnom Penh, assisting the staff at LaValla School for disabled and under-privileged children.
At the school they offered a helping hand weeding the vegetable gardens and school ground, as well as sanding and painting walls.
The girls also spent time teaching the enthusiastic local children about many different topics, ranging from Australian animals to Health and Physical Education.
They documented their trip on their school blog.
“We came here to teach them, but they ended up teaching us so much more,” the students wrote.
“The pure joy radiating from the students was empowering to each and every girl, giving us a new perspective on what’s important.
“It was not only confronting but an experience we will never forget.”
By Olivia Ashworth