Tourism, Hospitality and Events students make a difference volunteering in Cambodia

Week 1: Green Gecko Project

The division of Tourism, Hospitality and Events recently travelled to Cambodia with final year students for two weeks, with Amanda Payne and Dr Daniel Wright.  The aim and purpose of this educational visit was to continue the university support for the Green Gecko Project and to expose students to industry related experiences in Siem Reap.

Final year students have raised over £48,000 for the Green Gecko Project – a school that supports children who previously lived and begged on the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia. Fundraisers this year raised over £4,000 through a series of events designed to test their management, organisational and teamwork skill. Events included a casino night, pool and football tournaments, a masked ball, inter-university dance competition, music events and a murder mystery night.

Green Gecko:

"We rely so heavily on donations such as this to keep the hospice running and we simply wouldn’t be here without support such as this from the local community.”

The Green Gecko Project provides an important learning opportunity for students to apply numerous management skills including teamwork, planning, project management, communication and problem solving. It also provides an opportunity to learn the significance of corporate and social responsibility, an important subject in today’s business environment.

The students were exposed and challenged by a variety of working activities whilst at the Green Gecko Project, such as teaching local students, working on a local farm, learning handicraft trades and skills, organising and taking part in sporting activities, and been taught some local Khmer by the children. Here are some of the final year students’ comments on their experiences:

Shivani Nathoo

“The week that I spent in the Green Gecko School was one the most memorable aspects of the trip. The children are all very friendly and most could speak a good amount of English. I spoke to quite a few of the Gecko kids, they talked about their background and how they came about being part of this school. Many of the kids have big ambitions and have a bright vision of their future. Some of their visions include studying or taking up a career in the fields of business, marketing, dentistry, law, midwifery, tourism and much more. Some of the kids have already achieved so much and have a life-changing story to tell. Although they go to school six days a week, a few of the older children even have part-time jobs to support their families. Another fact that I noticed from these children is that they lead a simple life. They have very little yet they always share and are in fact happier than some people in the western worlds.  Personally, I learnt a lot from these children just by talking to them. The fact that they know exactly what they want in life, their motivation and drive to achieve their dreams really inspired me and reflect back to myself about what plans I have for my future.”

Hannah Fallows

“My favourite aspect of Green Gecko was working closely with the kids. On our third day, we each had to read 1 to 1 with them and get to know them more as individuals, which was lovely. On the fourth day, we had an English, maths and PE class where the kids were able to teach us about the Khmer culture. Finally, on the fifth day, we conducted an arts class with the kids, which they absolutely loved! Working closely with them was an experience, which I highly doubt I will ever get the chance to do again and I am so pleased that I took the module. Working closely with such positive children was so refreshing and allowed me to consider my own life back home and realise quite how lucky I am. Green Gecko is a fascinating place and really allowed me to reflect upon my own life back home and compare certain aspects to those in Cambodia.”

Week 2: Industry exposure in Siem Reap

According to Lonely Planet Siem Reap is:

“The life-support system and gateway for the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap was always destined for great things. Visitors come here to see the temples, of course, but there is plenty to do in and around the city when you are templed out. Siem Reap has reinvented itself as the epicentre of chic Cambodia, with everything from backpacker party pads to hip hotels, world-class wining and dining across a range of cuisines, sumptuous spas, great shopping, local tours to suit both foodies and adventurers, and a creative cultural scene that includes Cambodia's leading circus.”

During the second part of their trip students got to explore the true Cambodia. They visited the Killing Fields Site, Landmine Museum, Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap, Buddhist temples and monasteries, butterfly centres, learnt local crafts and skills with at the Backstreet Academy, and experienced the Cambodia circus and much more. The second week also allowed students to work towards research topics as part of their module assessments. Here students conducted research into various topics such as authenticity, service quality, orphanage tourism and volunteerism, education and development and political challenges, all within the context of their degree specialism.

Kelly-Marie Staunton

“As an International Hospitality Management student, I visited the five star Grand d’Angkor Hotel as part of my research project, and experienced Cambodian hospitality. Visiting the d’Angkor Hotel was insightful, with a five-star experience, and service quality. In Cambodia, I also visited a local restaurant, which served fresh food from scratch, and was priced at $3.00-$5.00 a dish. Despite Cambodia being a third world country, the hospitality service was exceptional, and the staff were very passionate about delivering five-star quality service. Whilst experiencing the hospitality services in Cambodia, it was insightful to see the differences compared to the UK such as; serving cold towels to freshen up before dining, clearing plates away before the other guests have finished, and understanding the mannerisms such as; placing two hands together to thank the staff.

“The night markets were a local attraction aimed at international tourists, with local delicacies, insects to be consumed. The insects were on sale to target tourists, whereas the locals do not consume them. I sampled the spider and scorpion, which both tasted like deep fried BBQ food.”

Sammie - Jo Jackson

“The tourist experience in Cambodia was different for each place we visited, but all rich in culture. In visiting a third world country, we were exposed to a different language, sights, smells and people. An essential part of visiting and exploring a new country is the opportunity to experience cultural differences and the experiences we were given had the ability to change our outlook on life and were very valuable! We visited local Buddhist temples and were blessed by a Monk. We entered the temples barefoot, sat down and prayed - whilst the Monks chanted prayers of wishing us happiness, luck and prosperity in life, before blessing us (remembered by a good luck bracelet). Tonle Sap was also very moving and a highlight to see ‘the way the other half live’, whatever floats your boat - literally! A floating man made village and a life on the water, all made by their own resources, made many of us very emotional to see how much we take for granted. The Killing Fields and Landmine museum was also very educational and a realisation at that, extremely personal to be able to read the stories of people in the landmine museum and a few more tears were definitely shed again!”

Cambodia was a life-changing experience, as it gave me an insight into what another hospitality culture is like.” - Kelly-Marie Staunton

“Overall an amazing and life-changing experience, definitively given me a new outlook on life and would do it all again in a heartbeat.” - Sammie - Jo Jackso

Overall, the trip was exciting, thought provoking and most definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity!” - Hannah Fallows

“To the 11 final years students who approached every challenge with a positive attitude; UCLan, the School of Management and division of T.H.E for supporting the field visit; the travel office for their hard work in logistical planning; to the Green Gecko Project for accommodating us; all T.H.E final year students for raising money is supporting such an inspiration project, and everyone else at UCLan and in Cambodia who has supported and assisted in this successful and life changing opportunity… a massive thank you for all of us!!!”- Amanda Payne and Daniel Wright.