I travelled to Cambodia in December 2017 with Challenges Abroad for the Cambodia Community Challenge. I signed up for the trip during year 12 with little thought about what was actually involved – just knowing that I wanted to make the world a better place and this might be my chance to do it.

I soon learned that Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense foundation are FULL of wonderfully kind people, who genuinely want to make a difference in the world. The day I arrived in Cambodia, the locals and in-country team had an amazing banquet of food ready for us as soon as we arrived, which was the first sign of the kindness they all possessed and the exciting two weeks I had ahead of me!

The trip involved teaching conversational English to students at a local government school in the mornings, and in the afternoons building a new classroom on a site that offers supplementary classes free of charge to Cambodian children – paid for by Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense Foundation.

Teaching English to the kids was challenging but rewarding and to see at the end of the trip the kids repeating things we had taught them like “how are you” and “my name is..” was incredibly moving! But my favourite memory from the trip is when we were working on our construction project. Each afternoon we worked for hours building the classroom with the locals and one afternoon when we were close to finishing, one of the translators spoke to me about how he himself had learned English from foreigners and it had changed his life forever. He had been able to become a travel guide and translator due to his English skills and in Cambodia this is a high paying job. It allowed him to support himself and his family and he was emotional as he was telling us that this classroom we were building will forever change the lives of Cambodian children and allow them to escape poverty.

The children we taught were nothing short of amazing. They singlehandedly changed my life, and I know most of the other volunteers on my trip feel the same. These 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds taught us how to be more mindful, how to be more generous and how to love life. We went over to Cambodia to try and make an impact and change the lives of these kids by giving them an education (which we did contribute to) but most of all, they changed our lives.

Overall the trip was well organised and constantly challenged me to think deeper about my actions and about how despite being only one person, I can make a difference in the world. Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense Foundation work to create sustainable change in the poorest of countries by cooperating with the communities they work in and ultimately one day leaving them with the knowledge and skills they need to continue thriving and building a stronger economy for themselves. To me this is an essential reason as to why I love Challenges Abroad as a company – they work WITH the people to ensure any development is sustainable.

The one thing that is engrained in my memory from Cambodia is the kindness and generosity of every single person. Despite being some of the poorest people in the world, they are some of the richest in happiness and love. They have forever changed my life and I will forever remember the smiles of those kids.