King's Friendship Centre

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In 2012, King’s Baptist Grammar School identified Cambodia as its chosen country for outreach beyond the school. As part of teaching ‘Service Learning’ at King’s, we sought to take groups of students on overseas Outreach/Mission Trips as we partnered with a number of organisations working in Cambodia.

This process has ultimately resulted in the school partnering with Transform Cambodia to establish the King’s Friendship Centre. King’s Friendship Centre makes a difference for 105 children living in areas of poverty in Phnom Penh through providing them with education at our learning centre.

Each student has a sponsor from the King’s community and this contribution provides nutritious food for the sponsor child and their family, and covers all school and tuition expenses. Generally, the children at our centre will attend public school for half a day leaving the other half of the day to attend King’s Friendship Centre. They are served a nutritious meal in the middle of the day which is oftentimes the only meal they will have during the day.

The children at the centre are currently aged between 5 and 7 years and will be part of the program until they finish their senior schooling. At the moment, the children are learning simple English words and sentences along with colours, body parts and counting.

The centre was officially launched at King’s in early September 2014 where we were blessed to be able to welcome guests from Transform Cambodia along with our Centre Manager, Mongkul, who travelled to Adelaide from Cambodia to share in the official launch. Mongkul shared with the school his hopes for the children at King’s Friendship Centre at our launch assembly. The assembly also allowed the community to pray for each of the children who are attending King’s Friendship Centre. We had a time of open prayer where our students could pray for the people of Cambodia and this was particularly encouraging to hear.

A group of students and staff attended King’s Friendship Centre on the Service Learning Trip to Cambodia in Sept/Oct 2014. They were fortunate enough to be able to deliver in excess of 100kgs of sporting equipment, gifts and letters for the children at King’s Friendship Centre from our community. This was a real blessing to the centre as they do not have a lot of resources considering they had only been open for a few months. The team was also able to bless the students by using some fundraising money to take the children to ‘Monkey Business’ a play café in Phnom Penh. This was the first time these children had ever had such a treat and it only took seconds for them to work out how much fun they could have on the play equipment.


Update - April 2016

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The bond between King’s Baptist and King’s Friendship Centre is healthy and strong and will continue to grow as we nurture and develop our relationship.

For the past few years, our senior students had the opportunity to undertake mission trips to Cambodia, specifically fostering our relationship with King’s Friendship Centre. In July 2015, a group of 9 staff members visited Cambodia – we were blessed to be on the first staff trip and to experience Cambodia first hand.   

Like the students, the staff left with many lasting memories. The successes of the trips by far exceed the challenges people were confronted with.

Travelling to Cambodia presented many opportunities that challenged staff and students on a personal level. The itinerary was well planned and provided a variety of activities with a focus of understanding the history and culture of Cambodia, the mission and importance of Transform Cambodia and the chance to be of service. We were amazed at the input of various organisations from different countries across the world committed to rebuilding Cambodia. We learned about organisations that rescue destitute young people and train them in service, so that they can have a better future. Stories of individuals who made a difference were particularly inspiring – the Australian lady who started Bloom Café and Training Centre  cambodia IMG 1791 sm 

She felt the need to do something when visiting Cambodia and thought all she was good at was baking cakes. Prompted by God she started Bloom, providing an alternative to young women resigned to a life of prostitution, teaching them how to bake and decorate cakes well enough for the King to buy. (He doesn’t know their background!) At Mothers and Daughters we were served by young girls who were trained in hospitality. We met with Kimbra and Matt who shared their journey with Destiny Rescue and the difference they make in the lives of young girls on the street. In Siem Reap we visited the Phar Circus and saw an energetic performance by previous street children who are skilled in the Arts and whose lives have been transformed by this experience. In 2015, our students attended a workshop held by some of the young people who work in the Phar Circus. Hearing Tom, the Manager from Transform Cambodia Head Office in Phnom Penh, testifying about his faith and how God lead him to this position, was another amazing story. It left some of us pondering on our place in the world and what we are doing to right some wrongs that life has burdened some people with. Listening to the feedback after student trips, the students had similar life changing experiences.

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These were some of the opportunities presented to staff and students in Cambodia. Not only were there opportunities to listen and to process, but ample opportunities arose to witness, step out in faith and show God’s unconditional love. Staff and students all testify that meeting the staff at King’s Friendship Centre, as well as the families and sponsor children, is one of the major highlights of the trips. Leading a shared devotion with the staff allows us to be active disciples of God. Meeting the families of our sponsor children and showing love, care and compassion, extends our relationship into the community and makes it real! Many of us, staff and students alike, have left forging ongoing friendships with staff from the King’s Friendship Centre. Meeting the people is unforgettable; they have become part of our extended King’s family! Our sponsor families are very vocal in voicing their gratitude for the opportunities we provide to their children.

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Experiencing first-hand the success of Transform Cambodia in the lives of our families is another memorable event. Not only are the children taught Maths and English, but they learn about hygiene, get to brush their teeth each day and above all learn to pray and worship God. After the staff visit last year, we heard that some of the staff at the King’s Friendship Centre have started Sunday services for families in the school building. Last year our students were fortunate to be part of the Rice Day distribution where they got to meet the families.

A huge success is the giving of gifts. A range of gifts are collected prior to each student and staff visit and shared amongst the children at King’s Friendship Centre, while some gifts go to Destiny Rescue.  The Beanie Kids in particular, proved to be a popular gift to the younger children and older girls from Destiny Rescue! Resources are collected to supplement teaching materials for both organisations as well. We are in a fortunate position to be able to select suitable deleted resources from our library collection that would otherwise be sent to charity organisations in the South Pacific.

Students have the opportunity to be of service and to provide when they see a need. Prior to each trip our students are actively involved in fundraising, which provides them with the means to treat the children at King’s Friendship Centre and the girls at Destiny Rescue. Other than King’s Friendship Centre, our students also visit other organisations, such as schools in disadvantaged areas. Last year, the students were able to supply Bibles for each child at a school with the money they have raised. Through Samaritan’s Purse, the students heard about the impact of human trafficking and they learned about collective farming as a means to improve the standard of living in villages.

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Many challenges present themselves during the staff and student trips. The first impression of Cambodia is a challenge in itself. The students start their trip in Siem Reap before visiting the bustling city of Phnom Penh, which is a gentler introduction to the country. The staff visited Phnom Penh first – it is quite a shock to suddenly be plunged into a Third World country. Cambodia is a country of contradictions – opulence resides next to poverty and poverty outweighs opulence by far. A seeming lack of social services and an apparent lack of familiar road rules add to the chaos of a developing nation. With safety in mind, our students are well prepared before they embark on this journey and their safety is paramount at all times.

Learning about the tragic and horrific recent past of Cambodia is another challenge. There are no words that can do justice to the emotions evoked when we visited the Killing Fields and S21. It is hard to make sense of what happened. Looking at the way the Cambodian people adjusted after these events is remarkable and nothing short of a miracle – in general they are warm, hospitable and generous – they don’t have much to give but share selflessly. At the end of each visit, students and staff have the chance to debrief and to work through their emotions. The emotional well-being of our students as they process their experiences are a high priority for staff on our student trips.

Adjusting to the stifling humidity and being of service under these conditions is quite a challenge. Physical work especially must be carefully considered and it is vital to stay hydrated. Hygiene is also a problem and it is important to sanitise your hands regularly, especially before eating. Getting used to Third World toilets on the occasion that there is no other alternative, can be quite confronting as well. The traffic noise into the early hours of the morning adds another layer to assault the senses!

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During our visit to the Transform Centre, we have the opportunity to visit the homes of some of the families. It is challenging to experience the conditions families live in – small one-roomed tin shacks in stifling heat with poor air circulation makes it almost incomprehensible when you realise that 8 people share that space. In some circumstances families have no running water or ablution facilities and share their home with more than one family. No paved roads and pollution add to the general feeling of misery. When we see our children in their home environment, you realise how much their Transform uniforms change them – they wear them with pride!

On a personal level a major challenge is realising that the little we do is but a drop in the ocean – yet it is making a difference in the lives of many people!

What future possibilities are presented through our relationship with King’s Friendship Centre and ultimately, our mission in Cambodia?

It is important to strengthen our relationships with the staff at King’s Friendship Centre and with our families and sponsor children. We should not underestimate the importance of the support we provide and the affirmation we give our staff. Being disciples of God we must continue to show God’s unconditional love in our interactions with our King’s Friendship Centre community. We are touching hearts and showing people a different way of living and offering hope for a better future.

Providing opportunities for future staff and student trips will assist the growing bonds with the community. This year we have a staff trip, two Year 10/11 student trips and a Year 12 trip at the end of the year – double the amount of trips we had last year! We must foster the growing interest and the desire to be part of this journey amongst our King’s community; it is a most fulfilling experience that helps you evaluate what is important in life and to find your place in the world.

A further possibility, providing Transform Cambodia supports the idea, is offering a means of financial support to our King’s Friendship Centre staff. Their income is little; they are studying part time and sometimes find it a challenge to get by. During our staff trip last year we heard stories that tugged at our heart strings. One of the staff members, who had a young baby and whose husband was studying, often had the lunch time meal at the Centre as her only meal for the day. During weekends there were times that she went hungry as money was used for baby formula. At the moment Mongkul, the Manager of our Centre, is holding two jobs while he is saving for a motorcycle as a means of transport. To provide a quality education to our children at the Centre is a challenge when the staff are hungry and worn out.

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Being in the fortunate position of working at a school, we have the means to mentor Transform Cambodia staff and perhaps present workshops to upskill and support the staff. This will have to be negotiated with Transform Cambodia. Providing quality resources to further support their teaching is another way in which we can contribute.

Involving our school community in sponsoring rice for families is another possibility. This is an achievable goal and will further strengthen our ties with King’s Friendship Centre. With all the children at the Centre sponsored, some families are left wondering how they can be involved with King’s Friendship Centre. One way in which they can be involved is to sponsor rice to feed one of our families. Families new to the school can be encouraged to support this cause. We must also nurture a sense of awareness amongst the student body. Having days such as Cambodia Day at school and launching activities in which the students participate, further helps to strengthen the connection with Cambodia. Our students have giving hearts and it is especially heart-warming to see our younger students use their entrepreneurs’ skills to raise money for King’s Friendship Centre. 

King’s has been called to step out in faith. The path will unfold as we willingly and trustingly follow, keeping our eyes on God. We too are part of the history of Cambodia and our lives are intertwined with our Cambodian families.

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King's Baptist Grammar School | 3 Keithcot Farm Drive, Wynn Vale SA 5127 | P.O. Box 64 Modbury North SA 5092 | Ph. (08) 8289 0222 | ABN 85 693 637 001