Young Mercy Links Cambodia Immersion
Following a successful trip in 2018, six members of Young Mercy Links South Australia have undertaken an immersion experience in Cambodia in December 2019.
The two week trip saw the Young Mercy members joined by YML South Australian Coordinator, Gaby Kinsman; Meredith Evans RSM and Anne and John Haren.
The group’s journey included Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang.
Gaby Kinsman said a highlight of the trip was the time spent in the Oddar Meanchey province assisting the Jesuit Refugee Service house building project, building a house for a woman named Reour and her three sons, one living with a disability.
“Denise Coghlan RSM, a Sister of Mercy from Brisbane, has been over in Siem Reap for about thirty years now. After the civil war in Cambodia she worked with the refugee in the Thailand Refugee Camps and assisted with them reclaiming their land in Cambodia and from there developed a housing project which provides basic housing for people impacted by landmines and those with disabilities,” Gaby said.
Under the guidance of Reth and Nott, two landmine survivors who have devoted their lives to making a difference to building homes for people with disabilities, the group built two-thirds of the structure. Reth and Nott will undertake the remaining one third required to complete the structure, with support of the local community.
“It was such a privilege to spend time with Reour, her family and her community. While we were building the home, 17 children from the village gathered around, it was such a joy to spend the afternoon connecting with them and playing games, despite the language barrier!,” she said.
In the months leading up to the trip, Young Mercy Links South Australia members raised awareness about the project in their local community with a quiz night, feast of cultures luncheon and speeches at parishes and schools.
The group stayed at Metta Karuna Centre, a place with which many Mercy visitors to the region would be familiar.
“The Metta Karuna Centre is built on a bomb site… they have converted this into a very peaceful place.”
“We made great bonds with the Cambodians who work there, the chefs, guides, those who work in the office and doing other general duties. One of the other activities we undertook was to freshen up the children’s playroom with a new coat of paint and clean. Being able to talk with the people of Metta Karuna and with Denise about her passion for justice and advocacy over the past twenty-eight years is inspiring.”
Other parts of the trip included a visit to Battambang to the Cambodia Peace Gallery which focussed on Cambodia’s journey from war towards peace and a positive future. Local Bishop Enrique Figaredo (Kike) and his community welcomed us to their community and centre for children.
“A highlight was Saturday night mass and the Cambodian/Khmer dance of the Christmas story. The dancers also performed the Refugee Dance of Cambodia which was created in the Thai refugee camps,” Gaby said.
It is fitting that we close this short report on this wonderful trip with reflections from two of the participants –
The Young Mercy Links 2019 trip to Cambodia was a truly unique opportunity. As a young person, I often find myself caught up in the fast-paced nature of life. This trip reinforced the importance of stopping and listening to one another’s experiences and challenges in order to grow and develop as both an individual and as a society. Being able to meet Sr Denise Coghlan, who runs Metta Karuna Reflection Centre, was an amazing opportunity. Her dedication to her work in Cambodia, and her commitment to helping others reflect on the challenges faced by many in Cambodia, was inspiring. The memories and connections made on this trip will not be forgotten easily, and have definitely influenced my understanding and desire for social justice -Bridie Squire
Travelling to Cambodia in 2019 was an opportunity to strengthen some of the connections I made on the trip the year before. In particular, to be able to get to know Reth more deeply at the Metta Karuna Centre and whilst building alongside him in Oddar Meanchey felt really special. As a landmine survivor and world icon for his work on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Ottawa Treaty, Reth’s story and character will remain close to my heart. – Clare Peterson
Young Mercy Links is an opportunity for young people aged 18-30 with a spirit of Mercy to be engaged in faith-based volunteer service, develop their capacity as young leaders and explore their passion for justice issues. There are groups currently based in Adelaide and Melbourne. For more information – institute.mercy.org.au/become-involved/become-a-young-mercy
Young Mercy Links is part of the Institute’s Mission Integration Team for more information – https://institute.mercy.org.au/about-us/mission-integration/