Nowra kids in Killing Fields

Michelle Thomas

Over 40 Nowra Anglican College students are facing the reality of poverty and genocide for the first time in their lives.

Accompanied by the college’s director of welfare, Andrew Leslie, the college team left on Thursday last week for what is expected to be an eye-opening tour of Cambodia.

The group will visit the relics of the ancient civilisation at Angkor Wat, as well as reminders of Cambodia’s more recent, horrific past at the Genocide Museum and Khmer Rouge Killing Fields.

However the main purpose of the trip is to build houses for poverty-stricken villagers.

“Living out the love of God in practice” is how Mr Leslie describes the motivation for this unusual school excursion.

The house-building is supported by the Tabitha Foundation, a non-denominational, Christian organisation based in Cambodia that aims to provide work and homes for local people.

While students find the building hard, Mr Leslie thinks a bit of sweat (and occasionally blood) seems a small price to pay for allowing a Cambodian family to sleep high and dry for the first time in their lives.

Each year, Mr Leslie leads a group of students, staff and parents from the south coast school on a mind-exploding tour of Cambodian beauty and poverty.

“We are going there to expose students to other cultures,” said Mr Leslie before the team’s departure, “but particularly to promote awareness of the Cambodian people, their history and their circumstances, and to ensure that students understand that we are the minority and that the majority of the world live in third world countries, with poor hygiene, lack of clean water, dying from simple diseases and so on.”

The team of students, parents and staff is touring Cambodia over 10 days.

In the lead-up to the trip, the students were involved in fundraising to purchase materials for house-building.

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