Would you like to cyber-journey to Cambodia?
Sixteen students and two professors from St. Mary's College in Moraga are on their way for three weeks in Cambodia to learn about the culture and the 1970s genocide that has shaped it. It is part of St. Mary's regular January term independent study, and the group has set up a blog where you can follow along.
Saint Mary’s College students have now raised more than $5,500 for the Friends of the Cambodian Dream Child Organization, according to the blog.
St. Mary's student Matt Loudon in an email excerpt paints a picture of the trip:
"We will be mostly in Siem Reap where we will be teaching in rural schools. We will be teaching English to students but also providing some instruction in hygiene as many of these children have not seen a toothbrush. We will also visit the water wells that we have had built by local people through the fundraising we have done.
"We have learned much about the Cambodian culture and in particular how the Khmer Rouge decimated an entire generation of Cambodian people from which the population has never quite recovered. There is a hope that something will grow from where the blood has been shed. We will visit the Killing Fields in Choueng Ek where much of the genocide occurred - about 2.5 million lives lost out of a population of around 8 million. Today about 65% of the population is under the age of 25 and poverty is widespread.
"We have also learned that education is a prized possession in Cambodia. Most children walk more than 3 kilometers each way to schools with crowded classrooms with three or more children to a desk and 60 or more children to a classroom. And we have learned how scarce clean water is. Most people in the rural rural villages we will visit walk about three kilometers in each direction to collect water for drinking. The water wells we will be providing will serve on average four families.
"So why are we all going? We are a group of aspiring humanitarians who want to bare witness to the positive global impact we strive to create. A long, dark shadow was cast over Cambodia during the time of the genocide due to the U.S focus on the Vietnam War. Thus, it is time we cross the Vietnamese' western border into the Kingdom of Cambodia."
January term is a month between semesters when St. Mary's students explore a single topic in depth, sometimes with travel thrown in. Some course samplings:
- Contemporary Black Film.
- Grass Roots Democratic Movements.
- Mesoamerican Spirituality.
- Inspired by Oakland.
- Wild Mushrooms in the Bay Area.
January term includes a speaker series with provocative lecturers who speak to classes and in the evening present ideas to the community at a free public lecture on campus.