Students from Fairholme College in Toowoomba, Australia, joined Volunteer Building Cambodia in November for the fourth year in a row.

And for the second year the students, who had all just finished year 11 studies, funded two houses – house #152 and #153.

Senior teacher Julian Turner says the school believes that as well as providing an education it has an obligation to teach students the importance of giving back and the value they can get from doing that.

They participated in our building project under a program they call the Discovery Tour, which aims for students to discover:

  • The importance of community service and how it can bring balance to their lives
  • Something about themselves
  • Insights into another culture

This time 27 students and five staff members from the girl’s school took part in the program, which included the house builds with VBC as well as cultural experiences like talking to monks to understand Buddhism and visiting the war museum to better understand Cambodia’s history.

Jane Lafrenz, 16, says her sister did the trip the previous year and loved it so much Jane also wanted to get involved.

“Service is so important in furthering your education and making you have more gratitude for what you have,” Jane says.

“I definitely can appreciate things more. How I live and also a greater understanding of how other people live and a greater understanding of the culture and things like that.”

Teacher and trip organiser Lucy Easton says after working with VBC for a few years they understand how our organisation works.

“We like working with VBC because we can see where the money and the organisation and the funds go,” Lucy says.

“It does help (the students) discover another culture. It gives them a community they can come and engage with.”

She says learning the joy of serving others is a valuable lesson.

“For me, what I get out of it is seeing our students grow and challenge themselves and also learn to appreciate actually how much they have and what they have.”

Julian says it doesn’t matter how many pictures you show people, the images don’t prepare people for the reality.

The houses of the families they were building for had holes in the roof and did not provide protection so when it rained the family got wet. And with no welfare or safety nets for people in poverty, he says it’s a sobering experience for the students to be part of.

“I like the fact that I can see the value in what we do (with VBC),” Julian says.

“It’s very hard to find an authentic organisation.

“I think Sinn is trying to do something for his country and that comes across.”