Hornchurch students return from expedition around Laos and Cambodia
- Credit: Archant
A group of students have just returned from the trip of a lifetime after fundraising for two years to pay for it.
Seventeen teenagers from Sanders School in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, spent 28 days trekking around Laos and Cambodia and completing charity work such as teaching English and decorating a school.
This was all undertaken as part of World Challenge, an organisation which provides expedition adventures to secondary school students to help them build invaluable skills such as teamwork, leadership and confidence.
Teacher and expedition leader, Natalie Wickenden, said: “As a teacher, I feel trips like World Challenges allow students to experience another level of learning that you cannot access in the classroom.
“It provides them with the opportunity to be independent and develops leadership skills.
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“Throughout the month, the students make all the decisions with the staff acting as safety monitors.
“Together, Team Sanders explored Laos and Cambodia and were given a small taste of life in South-east Asia.”
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The students, aged 15 and 16, were divided into various teams, such as budget, transport and accommodation.
They began their journey in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, where they moved on to a trek through the Phou Khao Khouay National Park however a storm hit and the group was rained out of the rainforest after just one day.
They travelled south to the Xe Pian National Protected Area and trekked in much nicer weather.
Natalie said: “We successfully slept in our hammocks and trekked 4 - 5 hours each day.
“On our last night, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay in the local village and groups of five spent the night in homestays alongside the ever-welcoming people of Laos.”
They moved on to Cambodia where they visited the ancient temples for which the country is famous.
Team Sanders also worked with NGO Ptea Teuk Dong (PTD) which supports people by providing free English classes.
“We painted the outside of the school, did manual jobs and also spent time with the younger members of the community,” explained Natalie.
“Without us PTD wouldn’t have the money, resources or manpower to get jobs like this done.
“The project was all about exchange as the challengers learnt so much from the people at PTD.”
Later on a sombre trip was taken to Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields, where victims of Pol Pot’s regime were buried and then they headed to S-21, a former school transformed into a torture prison used by the Khmer Rouge.
“It was a very emotional day but students realised just how far the Cambodian people had come in so little time,” said Natalie.
“There was respect and admiration for those that survived the horrors of this time.”
The end of the trip was spent on the beach in southern Cambodia before hopping on a flight back to England.