Most college students think of winter break as a special, snowy time to catch up on their sleep, but a handful of Marlboro students took the time to do something way beyond their comfort zone. Thanks to generous support from the Jerome I. Aron Fund, they traveled halfway around the world to Cambodia to learn about international development and participate in service learning projects.
The Aron Fund is an endowment created in 2004 in memory of Marlboro’s dear friend and trustee, Jerry Aron, to promote collaboration between students and faculty.For two weeks in January, art faculty John Willis, Cathy Osman, and Tim Segar, along with five students, visited Cambodian communities together. The group participated in ESL classes in local schools, and helped with water projects sponsored by development agencies.
“We collected data from about 100 wells and ponds, which locals were currently using for their water sources, in order to determine whether the filters they used were working and how safe the water was,” said sophomore Hanna Kim. Hanna has an interest in chemistry, and benefitted from experiencing this kind of field work. “Being there and showing test results, I was proud that what I had done was actually helping people.”
This is the third service-learning trip Marlboro has taken to Cambodia in the past five years, building on relationships already forged with sustainable development groups in Cambodia and in the U.S., such as the Amherst/Cambodia Water project. The group visited schools in Champon Chhnang, Ang, Pursat, Siem Reap, and other communities where they participated in service projects. They are also visiting the busy capital of Phnom Penh, the temple of Angkor, and memorials to those killed during the Khmer Rouge period.
“The highlight of the trip for me was also, in part, the most disturbing,” said junior Matthew Czuba, who was interested in learning about early education and linguistics in Cambodia. He was referring to the group’s visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a notorious “security prison” during the Khmer Rouge regime, and interview with one of the last prison survivors. “The knowledge that this man chose to stay in this place and continue to speak about his experience was enough to bring me to tears. Sharing this experience with the student and faculty group was an unforgettable moment of camaraderie, appreciation, and humility.”