Helping Young Americans Understand Asia
For the 2nd year, Khiri Travel has been proud to work with Global Explorers (GEx), to help young Americans experience Asia with constructive hands-on activities at community level. In June, some 30 high school students, six teachers and three GEx staff traveled to Cambodia for over 20 days of learning about Khmer history and culture, conservation, farming, cooking and interactions with Cambodian people in their villages and farms and at various Khiri Reach projects.
This great interaction was part of the American Youth Leadership Program, a cultural exchange initiative run by Global Explorers. It is funded by the US Department of State to provide life enhancing cross-cultural exchange for American high school students and educators from a diverse background. For two years Khiri Travel has organized the on-the-ground activities in Cambodia. This year the activities addressed themes such as leadership, service, cultural exchange and responsible tourism.
Khiri organized trips to Chi Phat (an ecotourism village in the Cardamom Mountains), the Sambor Prei Kuk home stay community (one of Khiri Reach’s project sites in central Cambodia), Siem Reap, Tonle Sap, and the temples of Angkor. Khiri Cambodia was heavily involved in arranging the hands-on and interactive elements at each location.
Ms. Linda Oum, Deputy Manager of Khiri Travel Cambodia and Khiri Reach Ambassador, said of the 2012 trip: “The program was a huge success, bringing students to experience new and different things from what they are used to back home. It was particularly enjoyable to allow them to experience Cambodian lifestyles, sharing and learning about cross culture exchanges, climate change, conservation and sustainable development in Cambodia. The students found all of it very interesting. Throughout the trip we played a variety of games. One of the highlights was at Kampong Chaeuteal High School, where the students played a game where the American students had to introduce themselves to the local students allowing them to interact and make new friends.”
The students farmed and ate Khmer rice, fish and vegetables. Said Linda: “Students enjoyed their homestay a lot. They ate traditional food made by local people. The American students had the opportunity to learn how to do rice farming with Khmer farmers. They enjoyed planting trees at the school. Our students taught the Cambodian students some English, and the local students taught us some Khmer.”
(To get a feel for the activities check out the exuberant YouTube video (click half way down the page) made by volunteer Lauren Jones during the 2011 Global Explorers trip to Cambodia.)
Each year, GEx selects 30 students between the ages of 15 and 17 and five educators who teach at high schools in the United States. Over the two years of the program, GEx has received over 450 student applications and 170 educator applications. A team of GEx employees read the applications. They then combine all the scores and select quite a few applicants for phone interviews. GEx then makes a final decision based on interview scores and written application scores.
The lucky participants benefit from a pre-trip retreat to San Francisco for orientation and to learn media skills, digital story telling and team building. When they arrive in Cambodia, they are ready to embrace local culture in a meaningful and respectful way.
As the video shows, each year there is an extraordinary and enthusiastic group of young people who are eager to give – and to learn.
Khiri Travel is proud to help Global Explorers with the American Youth Leadership Program. With Khiri Travel and several of the Khiri Reach projects, we look forward to getting involved in the next trip to further enhance cultural understanding and respect.