In-Person Cambodia Workshop Series

Ingenuity in Cambodia

Over the course of the previous school year, we participated in the GSIS Christmas Bazaar, selling our team-designed STEM kits. Our student-led ECA involved demonstrating our design process, and hands-on sessions actually putting the kits together.

The kits made during these sessions, in addition to kits put together in our own time, were used in workshops around Hong Kong as our team reached out to schools and organizations around the city to spread the joy of STEM. Not only this, but multiple shipments have also been made to various places in Cambodia, to make STEM education more accessible to underprivileged children.

Over the summer, David and I flew to Cambodia to put more kits together and meet the children. We spent hours each day on the floor, teaching the children how to assemble the kits (hydraulic jacks and mini trebuchets). There was a language barrier as none of us spoke Khmer and the children did not speak English, but we managed to communicate via hand gestures. It was grueling to have to sit on the floor for hours on end, and very frustrating to try and get an idea across with a language barrier in the way, but it was incredibly fulfilling to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they held their finished projects.

The first three days of workshops were held at a Korean language canter. On our first day, only a handful of children showed up, but clearly they had a blast. They must’ve been going around the neighborhood showing off their new kits afterwards, as we were surprised the next morning by a massive crowd of approximately 80 children, bumbling with enthusiasm. Our third day had the learning canter even more packed, as wave after wave of children arrived after their school day ended, all eager to play with their new kits.

We also got to visit the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh, to discuss our project with university students and receive feedback on what we could do better. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, as I had always been aware of my privilege but had never really realized just how lucky I was to have grown up in a place such as Hong Kong. The buildings were scattered throughout patches of agricultural land, and the classrooms were dingy and moldy. There was no functioning door to the classroom, just a doorway, and there was only a blackboard at the front of the classroom. There were no tables, just chairs with folding desks. The entire time we were there, we were slapping at mosquitoes left and right, and I thought about how fortunate we were with our air-conditioned, fully-furnished classrooms.

I was already feeling so incredibly fortunate and grateful for what I had at this point, but this feeling was only multiplied tenfold when one of the university students told us about how the highlight of their Christmases would be opening the Boxes of Hope that they received, sent from places such as Hong Kong. 

The final stretch of our trip was spent in the countryside. On the way there, we spent a lot of time taking photos of the beautiful landscape just outside our window. Fields stretched out into the distance, as far as the eye could see, and the blue sky was patched with rolling white clouds.

Our last two days of workshops were held at a church. Every morning the children would roll in on their bikes, toddlers sitting in the laps of their older siblings, eager to sing and dance. After the praying was done, our kits were handed out and the children immediately got to work.  They were so absorbed in putting them together that many of them barely noticed we were there. It was incredible to see how much fun they were having. Those who finished early strutted around, patting shoulders to show off their functioning hydraulic jacks and mini trebuchets, before going around and helping those still working through the instructions.

By the time our trip ended, we were both so struck by the experience that we were already discussing our next flight there and all the new kits we could make, as well as the different places we could send our kits to. The experience to see firsthand what being underprivileged really means made us all the more motivated to do the same for more communities around the world.