Marlboro College

News MARLBORO COLLEGE STUDENTS COLLABORATE ON HOPE IN CAMBODIA

Photography exhibit and public presentation on April 30

MARLBORO, VT – (April 18, 2008) – While some college students spent their 2008 spring break in Cancun or Fort Lauderdale, a delegation of Marlboro College students and faculty visited Cambodia for a range of service-learning activities.

The three-week journey was the highlight of an innovative Marlboro class called Creative Collaboration Service Learning, with a complementary focus on traditional Cambodian arts, facilitated by photography professor John Willis and art professor Cathy Osman.

“It seems very important for people in this day and age to get out of their comfort zone and become more aware of how our actions affect people throughout the world,” said John Willis.

A free, public presentation about the Cambodia trip will take place in the Apple Tree building on Wednesday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. Photographs will be on display and students will discuss their experiences and answer questions.

The ten students who went on the trip were Kelsey Wolcott of Redding, CT; Garth Sutherland of New York, NY; Paige Martin of Lititz, PA; Amber Schaefer of Bellows Falls, VT; Marguerite Fields of New York, NY; Laura Lancaster of Weston, CT; Michael Hamby of Richmond, VA; Sophia Cleary of High Bridge, NJ; Rafael Kelman of Thetford, VT and Marcus DiSieno of Guilderland, NY.

Although the Southeast Asian nation is now a peaceful place, its people and social institutions remain deeply scarred by the oppressive and genocidal Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s and many previous years of war in the region. The legacy of poverty and social dislocation continue to affect large segments of the population, especially women and children, and recent political stability has prompted a veritable bloom of development organizations. Marlboro voyagers visited and participated in a range of programs designed to support the education, health care services, and cultural revival of affected communities, programs that desperately need volunteer help of this kind. For Marlboro students, it was a life-changing glimpse of the challenges faced by Cambodians and a golden opportunity to be helpful.

The group spent some time exploring the incomparable Angkor Wat and Ta Prom, another ancient temple overgrown by banyan trees, but the primary focus was on local development projects. Some of the work was arduous, and made more so by the dry season temperatures pushing 100 degrees. At Helping Hands, a school in the village of Prasat Char in Siem Reap province, they helped rebuild a fence of heavy posts around the school in the midday heat. They also had some lighter tasks, like creating a sock-puppet play to teach kids about brushing teeth and washing hands and collaborating with local students to paint decorative murals.

“It was a great experience to see how development organizations work, and how we could help,” said student Michael Hamby, who’s interested in African studies. “Now it falls on our shoulders to do what we can to carry on that work ourselves.”

At Global Children’s Kompang Cham Orphanage, the group repainted latrines that sorely needed it, as well as painting another mural featuring representations of kids reading. They also led a photography project, handing out 50 point-and-shoot cameras to kids and then working with them on a huge photo collage of their images. They worked with the kids on their hygiene and their English, as well as spending time just hanging out and playing soccer. The Marlboro group also taught English to local workers at the monasteries of Wat Bo and Wat Damnak and visited with patients at the Angkor Hospital for Children.

“I think a lot about what we could do in three works versus what we could accomplish ideally,” said art student Rafael Kelman ’09. “We provided a very straightforward resource, hanging out, bringing some supplies, but it’s ephemeral. I realized it takes a lot more time and commitment to change lives.”

Learning about how to make development projects effective was one tangible outcome of the Marlboro travels in Cambodia, but a more intangible outcome had to do with heightened sensitivity to both history and culture. Some of this was not always easy for students to contend with: For instance, history has left Cambodia with more than 40,000 amputees as a result of land mines, not to mention an estimated 6 million landmines still in place, some of which were manufactured in the U.S.

“I was excited constantly during the trip, but also had this lingering dissonance, like, can we talk about what happened here?” said Sophia Cleary ’10. “It’s so hard to determine what the ramifications were of the Khmer Rouge, and what other causes are involved. For example there are thousands of child sex workers in Cambodia, but they are also all over Southeast Asia. It made me feel very uneasy, knowing that the U.S. was somehow responsible for this history, but that the U.S. were now treated as angels.”

Marcus DeSieno ’09 added, “We wondered why this is never talked about back home, that one third of the population died here in the 1970s, when it’s arguably just as tragic as the Holocaust or any other calamity of the 20th century. It was ironic timing that Dith Pran died on the very same day that we came back from Cambodia.” Dith, the renowned Cambodian photojournalist who survived the death camps of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime and coined the term “Killing Fields” for their notorious mass execution sites, died in a New Jersey hospital of pancreatic cancer.

“Now that Cambodia is somewhat in the limelight, maybe we can be a bridge to help enlighten people about what happened there,” continued Marcus. “We can bring it back to the larger community and keep it relevant, whether it’s through volunteering locally or working for NGOs around the world.”

For more information, contact the Marlboro College public relations department at 802-251-7644 or pr@marlboro.edu.

Celebrating 60 years, Marlboro College offers undergraduate education in the liberal arts and, since 1997, graduate study focused on Internet technologies. Its 330 undergraduate students enjoy an 8:1 student-faculty ratio, a voice in governing the community and individualized courses of study on a 350-acre campus in the hills of southern Vermont.

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