Students' Take: Fighting a pandemic together with Cambodian villagers
Project Songkeum’s take on service amidst COVID-19
By Claire Ng and Luke Chua, Class of 2026
Serving villagers in Siem Reap since 2015, Project Songkeum partners with Build Your Future Today (BFT) Foundation to empower less privileged communities in Cambodia. Through our past trips to Siem Reap, Project Songkeum hopes to contribute to the health education effort and share relevant vocational skill sets in local villages.
Our team having fun with the Cambodian kids on our 2018 trip
In 2021, COVID-19 travel restrictions threw a spanner in the works. Unable to go on our annual trips to Siem Reap, the team headed back to the drawing board.
Though many of our plans were cancelled, we took the opportunity to recalibrate our focus in serving the Cambodian villagers. As we outlined our outreach efforts for the year, we knew how crucial it was to render help exactly where it was needed during such uncertain times. Following extensive discussion with Mr Oddom Chem, the programmes director at BFT, we identified two main areas: provision of hygiene education to stem the spread of communicable diseases, as well as the lack of existing sanitation supplies.
With Project Songkeum’s mission continuing to underpin our initiatives, we conducted virtual classes on website and poster design which were well received by the locals. Our fundraising efforts, aimed at helping villagers tide through the pandemic, also saw us sending 350 reusable masks (with 150 sewn by one of our team member’s grandmother) to villagers in Siem Reap through BFT.
Marcus’ (M2) grandmother with her contribution of 150 handmade masks
Considering the locals’ concerns over a shortage of essential hygiene supplies, we then held a 2021 Christmas donation drive appealing for soap, hand sanitisers and masks. Thanks to the generous response from the OneLKC community, a total of 14.8 litres of hand sanitiser and 2,440 masks were donated!
The goodwill of LKCMedicine students and staff shining through their donations
Despite travel limitations, we were extremely heartened by the many messages and photos sent over by Mr Chem. We were touched to see the Cambodian children donning our masks and the villagers’ warm reception of our supplies.
The Cambodian children with their newly received masks in school
We were especially inspired by Mr Chem’s personal commitment to help even more disadvantaged rural villagers upon learning of our newly donated supplies.
Yet, there remains more to do. With no foreseeable end to the pandemic, the Songkeum team is looking for innovative ways to continue supporting the Cambodian community. Existing initiatives aside, the team is excited to soon roll out remote teaching on communicable diseases and a variety of vocational skills for adults and children.
With or without the pandemic, Songkeum’s commitment to serving and empowering our Cambodian villagers remains steadfast. As we eagerly await meeting the villagers in person, we are thankful for the privilege of serving and cherish every opportunity to support our Cambodian counterparts.