Seisen TASSEL students Cambodia service report
Each year the SeisenTASSEL group organises among themselves and in conjunction with the international TASSEL organisation to continue their education of students in difficult and challenging situations in Cambodia. Team leader Jenny Niwa shares what the group gained from their latest trip.
In July 6 members of the Seisen TASSEL group continued their ongoing service project in Cambodia.
We started our trip in Phnom Penh and visited both the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields in the
first few days. Visiting these historical sites allowed us not only to learn about the devastating history of Cambodia but also to truly understand why our service is needed in this country. Cambodia is, to this day, still greatly impacted by the horrors brought upon them by the Khmer Rouge. Visiting these sites gave us insight on why Cambodia is in poverty. On top of that, we were able to further understand the reason behind family situations. Many parents and grandparents suffer from PTSD due to horrifying experiences during the Cambodian genocide. How are these parents expected to love their children when their child’s cry reminds them of a suffering relative? How are these children then expected to know what love is, and show love to others, when no one has ever loved them? Stepping foot into rooms that were once used to torture, and walking past fields once used to execute, impacted us greatly, leaving us with heavy hearts. Yet, at the same time, this allowed us to serve with all of our hearts and all of our minds because we understood how much the love and knowledge we share can help the people of Cambodia
The most important part of the trip was the three days dedicated to teaching English phonics and grammar to the students and teachers. In addition to these three days, we had two teaching sessions in which we taught grammar individually or in pairs to one or two of the Khmer teachers. Throughout the three days, we taught one morning class in the Samrang village and two afternoon classes at the Banan village. The teaching schedule this summer was longer with 120 minutes of class so it was a lot more tiring and required more preparation. Despite the longer classes, the students were so energetic and eager to learn which motivated us to prepare even more for each class to make it as educational and fun as possible. Through this trip, we learned the significance of teaching not only to the children but to the Khmer teachers as well.
As the general election of Cambodia took place during our trip, there was a restriction on the number of families we were allowed to visit. Although we were only allowed to visit 5 families, each family had a story that greatly deepened our understanding of the struggles Cambodian people face and impacted us as TASSEL members to do more to serve their country. This summer we were able to revisit Tavan and Chan who we have met last year. Both Tavan and Chan have been through so much in the past year. Firstly with their grandmother, the only person who truly cared for the both of them, passing away, and secondly with Tavan being taken to Thailand against her will by her aunt and uncle. Tavan has always struggled to fit in due to her reputation as a bad girl, and rarely ever smiles and show her emotions. However, when visiting her and Chan at the river where they collect their food, Tavan could not stop smiling and even showed emotion by kissing our cheeks. There was a clear sign of development in Tavan’s heart where she is now learning to love and act from her heart which has been shaped by the love she receives from TASSEL. What the most important takeaway from these family visits was that there are many more families that face the same situations. Whether it be from the horrors of the Khmer regime, parent abandonment, or the death of a close relative, these families have to work hard every day in order to survive. First-handedly seeing and hearing the situation each family face allowed us to understand what a privileged life we live and want us to do the most we can to help better their lives.
Throughout the trip, we had discussions about what our goals are for this school year and what possible events we can organize to fulfill those goals. We believe that there are still many people in Seisen who do not fully understand what TASSEL is. We know that we cannot expect the same level of commitment and understanding from others as they have never been on the trip, but we believe that the most important step before fundraising is to spread awareness in our community. In regards to fundraising, we hope to continue our booth at the festival as it was a huge success last year. We also have other ideas that we would like to share with you and so we hope that we have a meeting with you at the beginning of the year.
Jenny Niwa, Lauren Woody, Anna McKellin, Aimi Iwao, Erika Saito, Shima Langan
Video by Aimi Iwao
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