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James Ruse Students Visit Cambodia

posted Apr 10, 2012, 6:02 PM by Eddie Woo
By Dominique Chan, class of 2012.

On the 2nd of July 2011, the first ever 13 membered, James Ruse TEAM CAMBODIA set out on a 12 day journey, venturing into the sweltering heat of Cambodia for the experience of a lifetime. Our excursion was designed to be our first major social justice initiative. Taking leaps out of our own comfort zones, we were immersed in the Khmer culture, observing and exposing ourselves to a completely different context. Seeing the poverty and the realities Cambodian people faced every day made all of us reflect and realise just how privileged we are. 

The definite highlight and purpose of our trip was our visit to the Hope for Cambodian Children Foundation. The Hope for Cambodian Children Foundation Inc. (HOPE) is an Australian non-government, not-for-profit organisation which aims to give a future to children whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. They seek to provide support, healthcare and education to children and families, and operate numerous HIV-prevention and support programs. An orphanage was established in Battambang, where 120 children are cared for as they have been abandoned by their families or community because they have or are suspected of having HIV/AIDS, or have lost their parents to it. The Foundation is reliant upon donations and sponsorship from Australia. 

After many months of planning, we were so thrilled to be able to visit the centre we had heard so much about. As soon as we walked in, we were welcomed with scarves and handmade pins, a blessing and name cards. Kids grabbed our hands and led us to their library, where they had organised performances for us. As we sat down, more children sat in and around our legs, talking to us and smiling at us. The way this continued for the next four days was amazing. Every day we walked in, we were swamped by at least four kids, impeding all our attempts to walk, and all we could do was hug and laugh with them. The feeling you get when a little girl wraps her arms around your waist, and looks up, saying ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ is one rarely experienced. The children were happy to share their personal stories with us, and their resilience in such adversity was incredibly touching. Although they did not possess a lot materialistically, the children at HOPE taught us a great deal about care, love and kindness, and to value everything we have. 

Our visit to the centre was truly life changing and amazing, and all of us formed strong relationships in such a short time. After such a magical and breathtaking experience, James Ruse is so excited and motivated to raise awareness, and to help HOPE in any way we can. All of us are so passionate to foster the connection we established in July, and we are desperate to aid the centre, so they can continue to change and give hope to many children and families. By the end of 2012, we aim to fundraise $10 000 for the foundation, and sponsor three students to attend university. 

But we can’t do it alone. Our fundraising events have been sponsored by our school Interact club and we have also received a donation from Ryde Rotary. However we are hoping that our ex-student community might like to get involved. Donations would be a wonderful way to show support either to the school via our School Administration Manager (Janie Golding) or directly through the HOPE website. Donating through the HOPE website will allow your donation to be tax deductible. Please indicate JRAHS as your organisation to allow us to count your contribution towards our $10000 target. The HOPE orphanage is also supported by numerous volunteers that are able to give up their time to assist with administration, medical and dental checks, teaching, agricultural pursuits as they grow their own rice and building / maintenance. Our James Ruse Interact club also sponsor the “Shades for Aids” program ( which raises awareness and funds to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to babies. Through the support of Australian school children last year, 34 babies were born HIV free. 

We hope to return to Cambodia in 2013 meanwhile our Social Justice team have been focusing on issues closer to home and we are hopeful of having an Indigenous Australia experience in September. If you would like further information on Cambodia or our social justice plans, or could help in anyway, please contact Megan Connors (, Deputy Principal.