Testimonial: Acknowledging that just because we feel like we are making a difference doesn’t mean we are.

The Rok Kern team has been hosting a number of training and development workshops for Tatachilla Lutheran College over the last 3 years. Their year 11 team spent an afternoon with us as part of their wider school Service Learning experience in-country and the school has also participated in our one-day “How do I respond to poverty?” workshops and leadership forums in Australia. In this short testimonial, Chris, one of their staff members, reflects on what attending those workshops has meant for their school:

Tatachilla Lutheran College has been partnering with Rok Kern (Children In Families) for a number of years now and this partnership is a central part of our Service Learning experience that we offer Year 11 students who wish to travel to Cambodia. As a fully integrated part of our curriculum our students spend 12-months in class developing an understanding around the ethical implications of short-term volunteering, with the Rok Kern workshops being central to developing powerful insights. We have engaged with Rok Kern in Australia, where our students were confronted with the realities of voluntourism – the idea that volunteering while travelling might just be doing more harm than good. 

When in country we have heard first hand from Khmer CIF workers who are making a real and lasting difference in the country of Cambodia. These experiences have become foundational to our school Service Learning experience as it combats the idea that we, as Westerners have the answer to Cambodia’s needs. It has placed Cambodian nationals at the heart of the solution and driven the passionate students with good intending hearts to explore ways they can genuinely help. For some students their career path has changed as a result of these experiences, with students electing to study a degree in International Relations, Law or Occupational Therapy.

Staff and students have felt personally challenged when presented with the realities of our own overseas travel and any potential volunteering, but in ways that bring about greater insight and clarity. Acknowledging that just because we feel like we are making a difference doesn’t mean we are has driven purposeful development of our Service Learning experience in Cambodia. We will continue to work with Rok Kern for many years to come and are excited about the ways in which their program will continue to set the new standard for international short-term overseas experiences.