Narrabri High School - A Cambodian Experience
Narrabri sits comfortably in the Namoi Valley equidistant from Brisbane & Sydney and many miles West of the Blue Mountains, in Big Sky Country. About 7,300 people call Narrabri home. Serviced by road & rail it is somewhat isolated due to the distance to larger centres. The daily air service ceased recently, further isolating the town from contact with major centres.
Narrabri High School with an enrolment of 620 students is a comprehensive co-educational high school catering for students from Years 7 to 12. The school provides educational opportunities and learning activities for students from the town as well as adjacent rural areas.
One such activity is a Student Volunteering Program. Aimed at Years 9 & 10, students are encouraged to be part of volunteering activities within their local community. Activities can be planned by outside agencies, the school or local community groups. For example students spend 10 weeks participating in the State Emergency Services (SES) Cadet Program.
Two years ago the school formed an association with the Tabitha Foundation - a non-profit organisation seeking to help suffering families in Cambodia - and each year a small group of Year 10 students has spent the year fundraising before leaving on a 10 day trip to Cambodia where they build houses for disadvantaged Cambodian families. In those two visits students have built 18 houses.
To enable us to build takes a big fundraising effort and we have held cake stalls, pie drives, BBQs, high teas, lamington drives and run raffles.
Many rural students do not get the opportunity to travel beyond Narrabri let alone our nearest big centre, Tamworth. This can be due to financial constraints, no desire or a perceived lack of need by parents. As a result the local community is very supportive in allowing some of its young people to travel further afield. Community interest is such that our Facebook page is closely followed - the 2014 Narrabri High School Cambodia page had over 4 420 views. This community interest and support has amazing results. One person, due to retire in 2014 was asked by his workplace what he would like as a retirement gift – his reply was ‘a house in Cambodia built by Narrabri High School'. Another, over the past 2 years has donated funds for the construction of 5 houses. Also our P&C Committee, Rotary, the RSL Sub Branch and local church groups have all ‘bought’ houses for us to build on their behalf. Narrabri is an amazingly generous area!
Fundraising activities also serve to provide opportunities for students to work together building teamwork skills. They are able to develop relationships with each other away from pens and books and learn a bit about each other's strengths and weaknesses.
As well as building houses, we have developed a relationship with a school in a rural village about 45 minutes from Siem Reap. At the school, run by a local man with the assistance of Harvest Australia, we spend a day learning how this school (and other Cambodian schools) operate. To assist this school, fundraising activities involving the three local public schools in Narrabri allow us to purchase and donate educational resources including library books, teaching supplies, art and craft items and sporting goods. Our students have also taught the sports teacher and local children how to play baseball and cricket.
We have also sponsored the further education of two local teachers. Finally, during our first visit to Cambodia in 2013 and following a presentation by Janne Ritskes, who founded Tabitha in 1994, we pledged each year to donate a ‘brick’ from each Narrabri visitor to help in the construction of the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital in Phnom Penh.
Overall, our students, with the generous support of the local Narrabri community, have been able to:
- Build 18 houses
- Supply 4 wells to a rural village
- Donate supplies to a rural school including 77 library books & bags, hats, art & craft supplies, sporting equipment
- Sponsor the education of two teachers in their training for a year
- Provide 27 ‘bricks' in the construction of the new women’s hospital being built in Phnom Penh.
Now, in 2015 another group of Year 10 students from Narrabri High School have begun fundraising for the 2015 house building effort when it is planned to build at least another 6 houses.
Our 2015 Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Narrabri-High-School-Cambodia-2015/1420094884957846