Project Cheway 2012: Water for Hope – Our Journey

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On 2nd July 2012, 25 National University of Singapore (NUS) students from the overseas team in Project Cheway! embarked on the inaugural 16 days overseas expedition organized by the Chemical Engineering Students’ Society (ChESS) to Prey Veng, Cambodia. This project was carried out in collaboration with Operation Hope Foundation (OHF), which aims to provide various forms of aid for the villagers in Prey Veng. OHF also runs the orphanage, Hope Village Prey Veng (HVPV) that gives the orphans a new place they can call home. HVPV not only provides them with the necessary education but also equips them with skills to improve their lives and work towards a better and more meaningful future.

Local and overseas team members of Project Cheway! have been working hard since the beginning of the year. The team was led by the main committee and separated into various sub-committees such as fund-raising, programmes, operations, logistics, and publicity. Throughout the preparation process, the various sub committees cooperated to ensure that this expedition would be one that would bring about the maximum positive impact on the villagers and children in HVPV.

During our stay in Prey Veng, Cambodia, we stayed in Hope Training Centre (HTC), which is also run by OHF. Poor villagers could attend a 3-month program known as the Computer, Attitude, Skills and English (CASE) Program at HTC. This program not only allows the CASE students to obtain better job prospects, but also provides them with opportunities to further their studies in their universities. We were extremely honored to have had an interaction session with the CASE students as one of our planned programmes. Through the session, many of us were impressed and inspired by their willingness to learn and determination to pursue their dreams and aspirations. 

This expedition created numerous first-time experiences for all of us. Throughout our stay, we adopted a rotating shift system, which provided each member with various opportunities to try out different tasks.  For the first week, some of us were assigned to the Marketing team, headed by Tung and Sinyi. The Marketing team was tasked to prepare dinner for everyone in the team. It was a challenging yet enjoyable experience. Language barriers with the Cambodians and inadequacy in cooking experience were some of the many challenges that were faced and overcame by the Marketing team.

        

Other then the Marketing team, 10 of us were assigned to the House-Building team, which was headed by Jayne. The house-building site was located at a village, which was situated 2 hours away from HTC. House-building allowed many of us to be exposed to carpentry work such as sawing, chiseling and hammering for the very first time. Although the process was labor demanding, it was made much enjoyable whilst playing with the children from the village during our break times. Simple games such as skipping with rubber band ropes, shooting rubber bands or even piggybacking the children could bring about laughter and joy to the children easily. Through our visit to the village, many of us came to realize how one can be easily contented with little material gains, as long as they are rich in their personal well-being and possess intangibles like friends and family – basically, bonds with other people.

As Chemical Engineers, this expedition also allowed us to put what we learnt to good use by building a reed bed in HTC. The Operations team who was in charge of the construction of the reed bed was headed by Nikesh. This was a pilot effort by Project Cheway! which aimed to make use of the reed bed to recycle soap water. This can also be seen as an attempt to alleviate the problem of water scarcity in Prey Veng. In HTC, we were lucky to have an additional rainwater system to provide us with water in addition to a well which we had to manually pump water out from. But in the villages, the villagers could only rely on the well water, which required a lot of human effort just to pump out from the well. In fact, some wells were facing a dire situation of drying up. Therefore, Project Cheway! hopes to send future teams to expand the reed bed building into the villages, hopefully helping to improve on the issue. This also brought across another important learning point for the team to know not to take things for granted, even basic needs like water and electricity. This served as yet another first time for some of us, experiencing occasional sudden blackouts and water shortages.

        

On the weekends, Project Cheway! headed to HVPV and conducted various activities for the children in the orphanage. Some of the activities included were interesting and engaging science experiments for them, such as natural pH indicators, paper chromatography and playing music using glass bottles. The team also organized carnivals for both the children in the orphanage and the village, with fun games like sharpshooter, cans knockdown, hoop toss and bowling. The children could even exchange their coupons from the games for attractive prizes!

The highlight of the last day of our stay there was the sports exchange, where the children from HVPV, students from the CASE program and members from Project Cheway! came together to have a friendly tournament of volleyball, captain’s ball and soccer. It was great to see everyone having fun, interacting with each other and enjoying themselves on this last day in Prey Veng. The cloudy skies for the past two weeks also cleared to reveal an awesome starry skyline on our last night in HTC.

All work and no play makes Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl! So on Day 14, we bade farewell to Prey Veng and began our sightseeing in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, visiting key landmarks such as Angkor Wat and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The visits allowed us to understand more about Cambodia’s culture and history. And finally, Day 16 marked the end of this enriching journey and it was time for Project Cheway!’s return to Singapore.

This has been a very exciting 16 days for Project Cheway, and in the midst of contributing to the people in Prey Veng, Cambodia, be it the CASE students, the villagers or the children in Hope Village, I am certain all members of the team have gained tremendously from them as well, being exposed to numerous first experiences and learning many invaluable lessons from anyone and everyone we have interacted with. I believe it is this spirit of giving and receiving so much more in the process that makes this expedition such a valuable and unforgettable experience.

Whilst the overseas team was in Prey Veng during the 16 days, the local team headed by Delin and Kian Siong in Singapore were busy at work too. Even though the plans were being carried out overseas, the local team conducted a flea market on 15th July to raise more funds for the Cambodians. The result was good even though the clothes were sold by 5 guys! We also presented to the incoming freshmen what Project Cheway! is about and the number of freshmen interested was encouraging. In the meantime, the local team was also in charge of planning a post OCIP at the Movement for Intellectually Disabled School (MINDS) at Fernvale, which was carried out soon after the return of the overseas team.

I do hope this sharing inspires future batches to carry on our legacy and continue to make a difference and impact upon the people in Prey Veng. A one-off expedition only scratches the surface of the big issues at hand. Only sustainable and continuous efforts will go a long way in creating something incredible in their lives and our own lives as well. Hence I sincerely appeal to everyone to join the next Project Cheway! I guarantee that it will be an amazing experience.

Written by Kelvin Ong Jia Hao and edited by Neo Sinyi

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  • The Chemical Engineering Students' Society (ChESS) is a student society within the National University of Singapore (NUS) that aims to establish the bridge between current students, freshmen and the ChBE department.
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