By Michael Doran
UPPER YARRA SECONDARY COLLEGE
In 2014, Upper Yarra Secondary College took a huge leap of faith when it’s first group of students set off on a humanitarian trip to a small village in Cambodia, under the auspices of the Rotary Club World of Difference program.
Leading the trip was teacher Bronwen Foley and in December 2018 she returned for the third time on a journey that began at a conference.
“I was at a VCAL teachers conference and went to a workshop presented by Bronwyn Stephens from World Of Difference,” she said. “There was also another speaker, a teacher from Echuca, who had taken his VCAL class over to Cambodia on the WOD program.
“This is the most powerful thing we have done in teaching and we had never been able to give our students experiences like this before. In 2018 we went back into schools were we had worked previously to build on projects we started on previous trips.”
A big issue in the villages is sanitation and a lot of the work is around improving it, work the students undertake side by side with their Cambodian counterparts.
“To help the Cambodians with education is very important but they cant get that if they are sick and not going to school. We focus on sanitation because we believe that is something we can do that will directly impact their educational outcomes.
“The students may see it as helping disadvantaged people but the personal growth they are getting out it far outweighs the hard work they are putting in. As well as paying for their trip, students and their families are heavily involved in raising the funds for the humanitarian projects.”
The trip is a mix of humanitarian work and cultural experiences, exposing the students to the genocide of the Pol Pot regime in the 1970s but also the beauty of Angkor Wat.
“These trips give our students something they can not only feel really good about but the school itself can also feel really proud of. Were making global citizens here in Yarra Junction, look at where we live and look at what we have achieved.”