Project ReNew – Cambodia Overseas Community Involvement Project 2014
In March 2014, 23 students and 2 lecturers from the School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE) embarked on an overseas community involvement project (OCIP) in Kampong Thom Province, Cambodia. We call ourselves Project ReNew. The project was organised in collaboration with Mercy Relief, and was supported by the Youth Expedition Project (YEP) initiative under the National Youth Council (NYC), as well as SP GoServe.
We were 23 students who came from four diploma courses in ABE: Diploma in Architecture, Diploma in Civil Engineering with Business, Diploma in Environmental Management and Water Technology, and Diploma in Hotel and Leisure Facilities Management. Before the trip, we took part in a two-day bonding camp and a local community service event at the Singapore World Water Day at Jurong Lake Park on 15 March 2014.
On 19 March 2014, Project ReNew, led by a manager from Mercy Relief arrived in Kampong Thom Province. Over two weeks, we participated in the construction of integrated agriculture posts in two villages, conducted lessons on personal hygiene in a primary school and helped to complete and decorate a garbage incinerator.
In Village Yeay Teang and Village Tapouk, most of the villagers are rice farmers who depend on one harvest per year. The Ministry of Rural Development of Cambodia (MRD) encouraged them to tap into alternative sources of income by helping them build integrated agriculture posts around their houses. An integrated post comprised a composting shed, a chicken coop, a fish pond and a vegetable garden. We divided ourselves into two teams and devoted almost a week to help construct two such posts for two model farmers identified by MRD.
Each day, we spent several hours under the sun digging earth and hammering bamboo strips. It was hard work but everyone was thrilled to witness our efforts materialising in front of our eyes. We were especially excited when 700 fish fry were finally released into each of the fish ponds.
The second week in Kampong Thom was focused on preparing and conducting lessons on good personal hygiene habits for students of all grades in Stung Chinit Primary School. We taught and reinforced two hygiene habits: washing one’s hands regularly and brushing one’s teeth twice a day.
Personal hygiene kits (toothbrush and toothpaste) were prepared for the school children. The real challenge was in communicating with young children who hardly understood English. For this, we were thankful to student volunteers from the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), who translated our instructions into Khmer during our lessons. It was inspiring to see how much Camdodian children value the opportunity to receive education.
Last but not least, we also helped to complete the construction of an incinerator in Stung Chinit Primary School, and decorated the exterior with colourful handprints.
We returned to Singapore on 1 April 2014. Through Project ReNew, we have learnt to put others before ourselves and appreciate all that we have been blessed with. To sum it all up, in the midst of helping others, we have helped ourselves.