IN-DEPTH NEWS FEATURE:
Aiming to improve life for disadvantaged children in Cambodia, many of whom work from a young age and live in poverty, the Australian College of Physical Education (ACPE) and the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) have teamed-up to offer a mutually rewarding and life-changing educational experience held in Cambodia for ACPE students and Cambodian Children.
The ACPE Cambodian Cultural Experience, which began in 2011, is helping Cambodian children by giving them a reprieve from their exhausting daily activities. A recent Understanding Children’s Work (UCW) report estimates that some 52 percent of 7 to 14-year-olds, or 1.4 million children are working. This, says the UCW, prevents children from gaining an education and also harms their individual welfare. Plus, it slows the ability to tackle poverty.
Yet, programs like the ACPE’s Cambodian Cultural Experience Program is bringing attention to the plight of Cambodian children and providing them with education, new sport and activity experiences, and life-skills training not to mention fun.
Australian College of Physical Education Students Gain a Great Deal from the Experience
Scott Reynolds, who is 21-years-old, has seen first-hand that the Australian College of Physical Education (ACPE) and the Cambodian Children’s Fund are working to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Cambodia. For the second year in a row, Reynolds has been fortunate enough to travel to Cambodia on a three-week programme that has enriched his own studies and focused on helping others upon graduation.
Reynolds, currently studying for a Bachelor of Applied Fitness at the ACPE, has gone from the ‘happy shock’ of his first visit in 2011 to mental and physical preparation for the second trip he took in December 2012.
“While a lot of the program was the same, which helped me get ready by being more fit and organised with my hydration and diet plan, I also noted small changes that made it feel like a new experience,” said Reynolds. “There were new buildings and programmes for the kids,” he said.
“Best of all, though, was the fact that the number of kids participating had greatly increased from the previous year,” said Reynolds. “Some of the same kids I had met the previous year had greatly improved their English and fundamental movement skills,” he said.
Sarah Trees is another Australian College of Physical Education student who could not resist returning to Cambodia for a second time. Trees who first went to Cambodia in 2011 says the trip teaches her so much about herself.
“It’s strange to think that the people you meet, who live in such poverty, can teach you so much about what kind of person you want to be,” said Trees. “Compared to us, these people have nothing and yet they are some of the happiest, grateful and peaceful people I have ever met,” she said.
The Australian College of Physical Education Program Improves Life For Cambodian Children
The program is a way to take Australian students outside of the classroom and into the real world. The aim is to create well-rounded students through their time helping Cambodian children improve their own chances of having a better life. For both the Australian students and the Cambodian children, it is an opportunity to experience new things, challenge themselves, and exchange cultures for a life-long impact.
“It is an amazing live experience,” said Reynolds. “I felt very happy and warm inside, knowing that what I was doing was so rewarding,” he said.
Yet, he has some practical advice for anyone considering the programme.
“This trip is not for everyone,” Reynolds said. “It is very demanding. The temperatures and humidity can be challenging,” he said.
“You work at least 12 hours a day,” said Reynolds. “It’s a third world country, and it quickly reminds you how different it is from Australia,” he said.
Neglect and Malnutrition are Pushed Aside for Swimming, Health and Wellness and First Aid
Despite many of the Cambodian children show signs of suffering like physical neglect, malnutrition, acid burns and limb amputation, they are positive, enthusiastic and eager to learn. Learning environments include classroom instruction and essential life skills such as swimming, health and wellness, and first aid. Then, there is the sport, which introduces children to Australian favourites like Ultimate Frisbee, Oz Tag, and Cricket as well as Volleyball, Soccer, and Basketball.
On his trip this year, Reynolds experienced just how eager these students were to have these opportunities.
“The children are very thankful,” said Reynolds. “They will listen intently to every word and the demonstrations you give them,” he said. “Then, they will go and practice for hours until they have perfected what you showed them.”
“Although it [the program] is only three weeks, these children have a chance to see what is possible, and I hope it helps lead to positive change for them,” said Reynolds.
For more information about the APCE and the Cambodian Cultural Experience, please visit www.acpe.edu.au. To donate to the Cambodian Children’s Fund or learn more about the plight of Cambodian children, please visit www.cambodianchildrensfund.org.