By Katie Gu (Feb 28, 2017)
This past winter, I was fortunate enough to embark on a truly incredible mission trip to Cambodia. Specifically, I went to the Pleroma School for Girls for what was going to be a journey of a lifetime.
Going there, I really didn’t know what to expect. My limited knowledge of Cambodia stemmed from the few videos I watched and the factoids I researched online. When I arrived, I realized that nothing could’ve truly prepared me for the road ahead.
Katie read The Rainbow Fish to the
students during their library session.
From the very first day, I was greeted with hugs and shy smiles. The school had designated a tuk-tuk driver (motorcycle carriage-like vehicle) to help me commute to and from the school, which was located about ten minutes from the hotel I stayed at. The driver had two granddaughters, both of whom attended the school. The school is located at the edge of the city, near what resembles more of a rural commune than an urban one. This is so that the poorer families have easy access to the school, which is one of their goals.
The girls begin each day with a morning assembly, where they sing songs, raise the national flag while singing the anthem, and listen to some of the teachers talk. At the end of each morning assembly, they pray together, which is a sign of the Christian environment these girls are brought up in. After their morning assembly, the girls divide into their grades and proceed with their classes, such as English, Khmer (their local language), Math, History, Art, P.E., and other elective options. Their curriculum is modeled after the government-school curriculum in an effort to preserve the girls’ culture and national identity.
From there, my journey took off. The girls quickly warmed up to me within the very first day, with me reading to them in English and them pulling more books off the shelves in the library. There was definitely a language barrier, and I was a bit apprehensive going in, but I soon discovered that it mattered little. They understood me through my hand gestures and simple words, and I understood them in the same way. Quickly, I felt a bond grow between me and the girls. I was kissed and hugged repeatedly throughout the two weeks, and what really struck me were their brightened faces and cheerful smiles as I greeted them every morning. The students also have a huge appreciation with lots of energy and passion for learning. When instructed, they do whatever the teachers tell them to do, without grumbling or complaining.
The Pleroma School for Girls is part of an effort to diminish the human trafficking problem, bringing girls into a loving environment so that they may have holistic education and come to know the Gospel through a caring, Christian community. All of the staff there are devout Christians, and their faith strongly affects the students. In school girls learn to be strong and comfortable with their identity and confident of their worth.
I taught art, English, and music in the two weeks. I read to them during library sessions and also during the teachers’ lunch break. With art, I taught them basic shading. Usually, they have time to let their minds run free and doodle, and I was again impressed by their immersion in whatever the task is at hand. After school, many of them would stay longer for about an hour or so, and I would talk to them in English and they would guide me to their workbook to help them understand words.
I was really struck by the teachers’ immense passion and love for the girls. They share such a strong Christian faith that it is truly admirable. They hold fellowship every day before school begins, and they constantly embody God’s love in their teachings and attitudes toward the girls. I worked closely with the English teachers, discussing ways to incorporate reading comprehension into their lessons and developing a book report format to encourage the students to read more. Many of these teachers come from difficult and poor backgrounds, with their families living hours away from them. But they don’t let any of their personal situations affect their teaching and interaction with the students. Over the course of my trip, I was incredibly grateful for the teachers’ guidance and support. My journey was so much more fruitful because of them. Even now, I stay in contact with these wonderful people.
Katie and Ms. Debbie Choy
The principal, Ms. Debbie Choy, is an amazing woman with a lot of energy. She is so dedicated in building up the school, and her efforts are evident in how well the school is run. She also oversees the other projects, like the Women’s Center and the Girls’ Home. She is actually the Field Director of the Pleroma Missions in Cambodia (PMC) which was started by Fullness in Christ Fellowship in California.
I greatly admire Ms. Choy’s untiring effort to look for ways to better help the girls. For example, when we went to fix her glasses together, she still had the girls on her mind. She asked the owner of the optical store if she could come to the school and give eye exams to the students and the lady agreed to come.
Debbie is truly the person for the job! God has given her such thoroughness and dedication. Before I left, she told me initially she had been a little nervous about accepting a teenager to work at the school. However, after the two weeks, she thought I had helped the English teachers greatly and that working with me was something she had enjoyed. Ms. Choy also said that the girls could feel the love of Jesus through the many missionaries that are called there to serve. This makes me very happy because I feel like I have contributed what I could to them, and in the process, I learned a lot. This mission trip is one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had so far.
I have found the interactive ways to be effective in helping the children learn about God’s love and His Word. I read from a cache of Bible storybooks to them during library sessions, and played “Jesus Loves You” on the piano, a song they were very familiar with, along with a couple of other Christian songs. They have been growing up in a loving and nurturing environment where they get to know this God whom they have been singing about and may even experience the miracles God will bring into their lives.
Pleroma School is a project that is filled with passion and is driven by faithful people. It is a project of God’s miracle. What a blessing it is to witness God’s work in Cambodia, and observe His faithful missionaries carrying out His will. Please pray with me for PMC and the people working in it that they may be empowered to continue this great work. They are planning to expand their school and incorporate more advanced grade levels, as well as build a permanent shelter for their Home for Girls, all of which I have faith that God will provide.
(Katie Gu, a 17 year old junior at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, U.S.A.)
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