OCIP Cambodia November 2015: Micro-finance, Macro-impact

With many Hwa Chong students going on Overseas Community Involvement Programme (OCIP) trips during the upcoming June holidays, Our writer Edgar Foo (15S70) reflects on his OCIP experience in November last year. 

From the 15th to the 23rd of November 2015, a team of 22 students and 3 teachers visited Cambodia with the mission of improving financial literacy among the less privileged.

The project was developed by Hwa Chong in collaboration with Skillseed and Playmoolah, both start-ups that aim to promote skilled volunteerism among youths. In the weeks leading up to the trip, members worked within designated task forces to plan a week-long programme teaching good spending habits and money management.

Departing from Changi Airport. Photo Credit: Isaiah Tan (15S6F)

The first part of the trip was spent visiting local financial organisations that specialised in microloans for the local community, as well as the Genocide Memorial. These visits exposed us to the instability plaguing much of Cambodia’s population, further ­motivating us to carry out the project to the best of our ability.

With these considerations in mind, we went to Samrong Tong, a village located in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province. Besides generously providing us with lodging and meals, the hospitable locals were quick to integrate us into their community’s lifestyle. Although the language barrier separated us from the locals, we were greatly aided by translators from the Organisation for Building Community Resources (OBCR).

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Team photo at OBCR. Photo Credit: Isaiah Tan (15S6F)

The Hwa Chong team showed nothing less than tenacity in the face of challenges. Inevitably, unforeseen circumstances arose that stymied progress, but the team worked together to propose creative solutions. On a personal level, Yang Dingg (15S7E) remarked that the infectious positive energy in Samrong Tong impressed upon her that “the less you have, the happier you will be”. Shaun Lim Sheng Jie (15S6C) spoke for many others who felt that the disparity of living conditions between the village and the city heightened their appreciation for material comforts.

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Mrs Joey Tan interacts with a local child. Photo Credit: Isaiah Tan (15S6F)

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Pre-workshop preparation. Photo credit: Isaiah Tan (15S6F)

OCIP serves as the hallmark experience of servant leadership, challenging one to push beyond personal boundaries and engage in self-discovery. One should embark on OCIP with an adventurous spirit, which requires courage and the willingness to take risks. The team must also allow for different members’ strengths to complement one another and celebrate every member’s unique talents, enabling the OCIP team to grow into a cohesive unit that functions with purpose, diligence and mutual respect.

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The financial literacy workshop. Photo Credit: Isaiah Tan (15S6F)

Upon returning to Singapore, the team’s final goodbyes to each other at Changi Airport were tearful. While we were reluctant to see our OCIP journey come to an end, we also felt immense gratitude that a part of Cambodia would always reside in all of us.

The team would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to teacher-mentors Mr Low Yizong, Mrs Joey Tan and Ms Winnie Law for their guidance and support, as well as staff trainer-chaperones Ms Tan Yee Hui (Skillseed) and Mr Jum Tan Zijie (Playmoolah) for their encouragement and care during the trip.

Written by Edgar Foo Zern Hon (15S70)

 

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