January 14, 2015 – Bozeman, Montana – During the 2014 summer Ivan and Cecilia Boyers, students at Crossroads College Prep, spent more than a month of summer vacation working and exploring in Cambodia and Myanmar with VISIONS Service Adventures, an international community service based adventure travel program.
Ivan and Cecilia were part of a group of high school students who traveled to Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia to do community service. The teen volunteers partnered on building projects with SALT (Sports and Leadership Training), a Cambodian nonprofit that uses a combination of soccer, life skills and vocational training to reach young people who have only nominal economic and education resources available to them. They also organized, facilitated and taught summer classes to approximately 90 under-privileged girls, and created educational films with 20 Cambodian students about climate change, recycling and littering.
In Myanmar, the group established a base at the Phaung Daw Oo School in Mandalay, where they implemented recycling and garbage program, designed and taught English lessons, games and workshops to a range of community groups. They also partnered with pre-college students for excursions and cultural exchanges, learning about Myanmar education system, organic farming initiatives and environmental activism.
The trip wasn’t all work for Ivan, Cecilia, and their peers. The group learned firsthand about Cambodian culture while based for a month in Battambang. They visited places of historic and geographic interest, including the Royal Palace, Mekong River, and the Killing Fields. Students spent a weekend in Siem Reap and toured the world famous ruins of Angkor Wat. They also bicycled through rice paddies, visited a silk production facility, and learned some of the basics of the Khmer language. In Myanmar, the group spent a weekend at the ancient Buddhist capital of Bagan, where 2,000 temples and pagodas dot the incredible landscape, and they walked across Taungthaman Lake on the world’s oldest and longest teak bridge, U Bein’s Bridge, among other excursions.
“Service in the cross-cultural context allows teens the opportunity to make a difference and, just as important, know the people whose lives they are impacting in personal, mutually respectful ways,” says Katherine Dayton, VISIONS Executive Director. “We give students tangible ways to be challenged through ambitious service work, thereby developing resilience and self-confidence, and realizing their potential in this world.”
VISIONS operates high school volunteer travel programs in Alaska, the British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Mississippi, Montana Blackfeet, Montana Northern Cheyenne, Myanmar (Burma), Dominican Republic, Ecuador & Galapagos, Nicaragua, Peru, Guadalupe, and middle school programs, including the Island Passage in the British Virgin Islands and Northern Passage in Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation.
“Each of our program locations is unique,” said Dayton, “but all provide primary ingredients of community service, cultural immersion, adventure and opportunities to explore places off the tourist track.”