YMCA Victoria believes in creating positive social change. Whether it’s around the corner at your local Y, or across the sea in another country, YMCA is all about helping enable healthier, happier communities.
One woman who has recently discovered what it means to be part of positive change globally, is Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre member Miriam Ludi.
Miriam heard about the YMCA Unearth Cambodia program through a member newsletter, and promptly expressed her interest. The twelve-day program is exclusive to YMCA members, staff and volunteers, and incorporates all the must see and do activities for tourists, plus a few days of volunteering with Cambodia YMCA.
Miriam says that although she knew somewhat what to expect – sightseeing, trying new cuisine, volunteering – these were just words on paper.
“My expectations were one hundred per cent exceeded.”
As part of Miriam’s tour group, they spent time at Angkor Watt, a floating village and Sihanoukville beach as well as S21 and the Killing Fields Museum – after which they developed a deeper understanding of Cambodia’s history.
The group then had the opportunity to spend time with the children at the Street Children’s Project, a program that supports disadvantaged children to enter the school system. In Cambodia, the average age a child begins work is just 10 years old. The Street Children’s Project is therefore so important in helping to create more opportunities for the children that need it most.
Miriam’s group, knowing they were to visit a school, planned a lesson on hygiene and brought toothbrushes for the children to learn how to brush their teeth. Miriam describes the experience of seeing how excited the children were to receive a tooth brush as “heartbreaking, but heart-warming”.
After seeing how this group of children lived, bringing them all to a water park the next day was the highlight of Miriam’s trip.
“The kids didn’t stop smiling the entire time,” she says.
“Most of them had never been to a pool before, which never crossed my mind coming from Australia.”
“I learnt so much about the YMCA. I always knew it as a gym and fitness centre, but I was so surprised to find out about the youth services, and childcare centres, and its structure both locally and internationally.”
“It’s amazing that YMCA Victoria stays in the background in this social enterprise and let Cambodia YMCA be the hero, and the champion in the country.”
Stay tuned for updates on the next YMCA Unearth Cambodia tours.