Tuesday 29 March 2011
YOUNGSTERS who spent a year raising £12,000 so they could help children in Cambodia have had their dreams come true.
Eight teenagers from across West Norfolk travelled 6,200 miles to help build a children’s play area in the town of Takeo last month, as part of the New Futures Volunteer Project.
The youngsters, aged 17 to 19, travelled with three youth workers from Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services and returned from their once-in-a-lifetime trip two weeks ago.
Working in partnership with the New Futures Orphanage, the group spent three weeks designing and building a play area complete with a swing, roundabout, see-saws and a giant pirate ship.
They also helped build a huge climbing frame for the orphanage.
It is hoped the play area will become a focal point and safe space for children living in the town and the orphanage.
The youngsters also hope future volunteers will add a football and volleyball pitch.
Trip organiser and youth worker Claire Boothby said it was a huge success.
She said: “The whole experience has been hugely rewarding for the young people involved, not only because of their interaction with the local community, but also due to the independence, confidence and skills they have gained – such as woodwork, sewing and hand-washing clothes and English teaching.”
The group is due to hold a presentation evening at Holt Hall next Friday, when they will give a talk about their experiences and learning from the project.
They also plan to take the presentation out to schools across Norfolk to encourage others to volunteer.
One of the youngsters who travelled to Cambodia was Sophie Willis, 17, of Swaffham.
Here is an extract from one of her blogs about the trip:
“We are a week-and-a-half into our stay in Cambodia and have already had the experience of a lifetime.
“The wave of heat that hit us as we left the airport was a sign of weather to come, something we have enjoyed at moments, tolerated at others, and moaned about most of the time!
“The play area framework was put together by a local welder who was extremely talented and efficient.
“We also had lots of eager helpers from the orphanage as well as other volunteers. It’s hard work in the sun, but it’s coming together nicely.
“Aside from work at the orphanage, we have experienced a number of other things: Cambodian food, Cambodian countryside and landscapes, and perhaps most memorably, Cambodian roads. None of us knew how many things could be carried on a moped! We have adjusted to it now, but the first minibus ride from the airport to our accommodation in Phnom Penh was an eye-opener!
“Cambodia itself has become a favourite in many of our eyes. Despite having not left yet, a few people are planning their return visit!”