By Caroline

Last Summer, I had the privilege of joining up with a Youthlinc team on a care mission trip to Cambodia. It was the most impacting two weeks. Our primary purpose for visiting Cambodia was to rebuild a school and the community after it’s destruction under the Khmer Rouge. 75% of Cambodia’s population is under 25, so they did not learn from their ancestors proper nourishment. Many still suffer from the land mines that the Khmer Rouge left, blowing off limbs while they work in the rice fields.

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We were able to interview them and hear their incredible stories. However, this did not discourage the enthusiasm or hope of the people. The school floods 3-4 feet in the fall from the floods, so we began by putting down tile in the school, painting the walls, building a garden, teaching them English and proper nourishment, and installing water filters. They did not know how to properly dispose of their trash, so they had E. Coli in their water. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to do some site seeing.

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Angor Wat is a spectacular man made creation. We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day to take us to all of the temples. The farther away temples are so peaceful as they are so isolated and it is only you and the monks there. It was very humbling to visit the schools where the Khmer Rouge tortured the people to confess. The killing fields were also interesting to hear about on the guided tour. Learning about Cambodia helped me connect with the people on a whole new level and feel so much respect for them. It made my service feel so much more worthwhile and impactful because they need it, they appreciate it, and they try to keep as a long-lasting effect. The floating villages were very humbling to visit. It is neat to see traditions carried on for so long in families to live there. We had the opportunity to feed crocodiles fish.

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And then we would go back to the town where we were staying, and “feed fish our dead skin” and get fish massages!

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I also got the opportunity to eat the exotic, fried tarantula…mmmm.

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Cambodia truly did change me as a person and gave me a passion to serve. It made me be more aware of my surroundings and not take anything for granted. It taught me that even traveling 27 hours across the world to give a kid a hug means the world to them. They just need to know that you care. I have never felt so much love even though we didn’t speak the same language. Those children taught me more than I could have ever taught them, and Cambodia holds a special place in my heart.

Youthlinc is a 501(c) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating lifelong humanitarians by offering students and mentors local and international service experiences.  Visit  http://www.youthlinc.org/ to learn more.

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