At Last ...
Well, all good things must come to an end. Overall, Project Sunshine 2017 was indeed a great success in touching the hearts of our brothers and sisters of the world. Through multiple setbacks in programs, overall health and morale of the team, the team went out in one piece and came back in one piece. Nonetheless, we made great friends that will last a lifetime.
Success comes without a failure, and here are a few concerns I felt during the trip. Of course, we must also thank the hardworking souls that put their 200% throughout this trip.
The program was great. There were many interesting parts catered for us to interact and let us help the children at the orphanage. I'd say, the best part of the program was when the program wasn't running at all. It was where I could better care for the children. Although I wasn't directly involved in the main program, I work behind-the-scenes to prepare meals for the team, and got a first hand look at the preparation methods in rural cambodia. Despite the language barrier, I was able to communicate to the elders and the children, to help them in food preparation. On one occasion, it was a session of preparing carrots to be sliced for an omelette. Through cutting, I saw the amount of detail and attention that was put into to cut the carrot into thin, 5mm thick pieces. Everyone was seen check their work, making sure that they do their best. The level of detail was impeccable that it made me realise how Cambodians honor their work and how they want it to be correctly portrayed to its viewers/users.
Despite my experiences, the program also suffered shortfalls in the flow and quality, probably due to the lack of experienced leaders and guidance by their mentors. Well, we're all learning, yet success will always come with Failures. I believe through practice and guidance, program leaders can rise and do a better job in future.
However, it is hard to wonder in the long-term effects of our work to impact the greater community in the Orphanage. For example, the act of gardening may help to grow vegetables for the people in the Orphanage, but does it help them to be self sufficient? Or would these plants survive the harsh climate of Cambodia? In another case, would building a toilet improve the hygiene situation in the Orphanage? How will that benefit the children? Would our actions continue to be felt in the Orphanage? Or would it remain as a fond memory, represented in a picture?
Hygiene & Health
Singapore is a hygienic and just society where healthcare and clean surrounding are commonly found in both closed and open spaces. As we head overseas, we may find ourselves in tough situations where the overall hygiene and health isn't up to our way of life. During the trip, I observed many shortfalls in hygiene where we may had missed, leading to the many occasions where some team members fell ill (including myself) to it.
a) Cross Contamination of Poultry & Raw Vegetables
Largely found in the kitchen on an elevated straw mat, the straw mat contained both poultry and raw vegetables where it was placed there as a holding area before it is cooked. During this process, liquids from both fresh and raw foods converge at one spot, causing a mat of dangerous substances and swarms of houseflies that roam around, further spreading the contamination.
b) Unclean Poultry & Raw Vegetables
Prepared on unclean surfaces, both poultry and raw vegetables were prepared on the ground, on top on different straw mats. Vegetables were skinned, sliced and placed into clean containers for use in cooking later. However, some vegetables were not washed before cooking, thus retaining the bacteria caught during the preparation process.
c) Cross Contamination of Raw Foods & Clean water
On one occasion, I observed Ice being added into clean water to create a refreshing drink for all to share. Despite not knowing the source of ice or the cleanliness of the production process, it was worrying to see foreign content being added into clean water, used for drinking purposes.
d) Food Handling & Storage
Musty storage solutions and the lack of hygiene while serving foods may have caused some form of contamination to cooked foods when serving. Although the risk is low, it is still important to ensure all food handlers are adequately equipped with protective equipment.
Despite the shortfalls in hygiene, I believe the defining factor includes the drastic differences in the way of life. We may be suited to our likes of hygiene, but our friends may be suited to another way of keeping it clean.
Project Sunshine is a trip hosted by the Cambodian Scouts Association, led by 15 Singapore Scouts, representing the Singapore Scouts Association, it was an international trip that kept our connections in both countries at bay. Despite the funfair in our work and why we are present, it was present that we were held back by many rules and strict discipline, that prevented many of us to comfortably network with our cambodian counterparts. On many occasions, the singapore team were keeping within their cliques instead of interacting with the cambodians.
Thus, it affected the morale of the team, where we were guarded by boundaries despite us being overseas - paid to get trapped. Politics amongst the ranks and inter-leader relations tighten the situation as leaders become onlookers and onlookers became followers (someone just want to stir shit up). Despite the lively spirits, many were disheartened, tired and stressed throughout the trip when seen through some of the members.
I believe sometimes it is important to relieve ourselves from our main purpose, and comfortably grow and interact with the people around you. It is important for everyone to understand why there are here and know how to show their thoughts to others.
Despite it all, Project Sunshine was a meaningful trip where I got to experience working with our brothers and sisters in Cambodia, made new friends, understand more in their culture and touch a heart or many. Honestly, I did not learnt much, but I did it more like an experience. I believe one should always treat these trips as experiences, not objectives. By treating it non-objectively, we're able to see things in a different perspective yet understand why we do it in a large focal point.
That's all folks!
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Project Sunshine is a Goodwill Cultural Exchange & Community Service Learning Project organised by the Scouts (17-26 years old) of Singapore Scouts Association and Cambodia Scouts
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22-29 March 2017
Enfant D'Asie Orphanage at Takeo Province, Cambodia