Trinity students return changed by Cambodia trip

Trinity Catholic College, Goulburn

Pictured with the cross made of coconut wood they were given by the Sisters of Charity (St Teresa of Calcutta) whose orphanage they visited, are… FRONT: Meg Divall, Emily Norris and Caitlyn Vassallo. BACK: Tim Matthews, Tye Young, Shelby Taylor and Josie Croker. Missing: Jess Skelly and Mrs Sasha Cady. Photo: Chris Gordon.


A group of students from Trinity Catholic College in Goulburn had spent a large part of this year saving up to travel to Timor Leste, but as it turns out, that wasn’t where they were meant to be.

“We were intending to go to Timor Leste… but the government raised the risk levels to a point where the school and Catholic Education thought it was an unacceptable risk,” said Trinity teacher and project leader Timothy Matthews.

“So we looked around for alternatives. Our sister school in Young, Hennessy Catholic College, were going to Cambodia and we decided to tag along with them.”

The purpose of the immersion trip was to provide students with experience of life in Cambodia, particularly in an area experiencing great poverty and to complete a major project to assist a family whilst there

 “We raised about $5,000 with support from the Argyle Rotary Club and Goulburn Soldiers Club and we spent three days of our eight day immersion building a house with a family,” Mr Matthews said.

Prepared for the culture shock of poverty in another country, another shock was to greet them first. Beyond watching “The Block” on TV, none of the students had been involved in any aspect of building before, much less in searing heat. And not just any building.

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“The first revelation was the fact that we built the whole thing with hand tools… a hammer, a handsaw and lots of nails. So we were literally on the tools from the get go,” said Mr Matthews.


“The first task was to push down the existing housing structure, which was day one and took us a number of hours. From there we raised up some eight metre high hardwood A-frames and put them into position.

“The next day we were hammering a floor together on our hands and knees, clouting in one inch nails… and there were more than a few bent nails, I can tell you.  From there we put on the roof and the sides of the house. The whole process took three days.”

The project tested the students’ resolve, but they all said they found it tremendously rewarding.  And not just the act of building the house.

Witnessing, and briefly experiencing the lifestyles of the people they met in Cambodia… the things that they lived off and the things that they were grateful for… has changed their perspectives and their appreciation of life.

“It was an emotional experience,” said Matthews.

The Cambodia Trip was life changing and a great experience, and has made all of us realise how truly lucky we are with what we take for granted. We all highly recommend a trip like this for you to experience yourselves.”

Caitlyn Vassalo.

“There were tears of joy with the family whose life changed. The mother of the family made a speech at a dedication ceremony and she used words like this is going to change my whole family’s life, this is going to change where we’re going, we can educate our sons now, we can feed them better, they have a chance of getting an education…

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“So for the same amount of money people spend on a kid’s first car, $5000, that’s going to change a whole intergenerational family and their experience of life for decades to come.”

And the changes were weren’t limited to Cambodia. The students returned with a renewed sense of gratitude, a greater awareness of selfishness and a determination to not take things for granted.

As one, they feel they received much more from the trip than they contributed and all would like to return to Cambodia or assist somewhere else in some way.

“I think the trip has left a lasting mark,” Mr Matthews said.

“These kids have all said that they haven’t been unhappy since they’ve been back.”


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