Ingrid is one of the 12 girls who attended Project Future’s school cycle this year. We caught up with Ingrid to get the lowdown on her experience during the cycle, and the memories that will stay with her forever.
1. What was the most rewarding part of the cycle?
Meeting the girls at AFESIP at the end of the trip. While the reason the girls are at the centre is devastating, the smiles and joy that beam off them – despite all that they’ve been through – really lights you up. It’s such a wonderful feeling after doing the challenge to see exactly first-hand where all the money goes to. It is truly the most wonderful cause.
2. What was the most confronting/unexpected experience you had?
I’ve both done the cycle challenge and the immersion trip. I did the cycle challenge first and the most confronting experience was at the centre hearing the bravest 10-year-old girl speak her story. She was only rescued a week before and already gained the courage to volunteer to speak her story. To hear her words spoken choked everyone up; it was heartbreaking, particularly given the fact she was 10.
On the immersion trip we visited two brothels on the second last day. We delivered food, baby formula and sex safety supplies to the women there. That for me has been the most confronting experience I have ever had. To witness the conditions that these women live in with their children was really scary. Hearing their stories of the abuse they have been through pushes you to help out as this is a cause that needs more awareness and support as it’s such a large problem.
3. What’s one life lesson you would take away from the trip?
You don’t need a lot or really anything to be happy. No amount of goods can make you happy. You just need to feel safe and loved.
As well as this, all you need is yourself to make a difference. Everyone has the power to make a change, even if it’s for one person as you are changing that person's world.
4. Do you feel as though your trip to Cambodia taught you or helped you realise something?
It has taught me to be more aware of issues that are occurring in this world and to continue to make conscious choices in Australia. We all have the power to make change, even if it’s the slightest change.
5. How has your outlook on your own life changed since coming back from Cambodia?
I think It has made me more aware and also very grateful.
6. Since returning to Australia, have you applied the knowledge or skills you developed when in Cambodia?
I have continued my connections with Project Futures to help out where I can. I also aim to continue raising awareness about the issue by simply talking about my experience and sharing knowledge.
My time in Cambodia has taught me to be a conscious shopper and to buy more ethically. On the trip to Cambodia we saw a lot of factory workers.
7. Tell me about one person you met on the trip that resonated with you.
Ratana: She was the psychologist at AFESIP centre as well as a survivor. She resonates with me because my dream job is to be a clinical psychologist and use my skills to help those who have been traumatised. Ratana’s happiness, persistence and courage are all wonderful qualities, and she is an inspiration to girls at the centre; she shows them that they too can recover.
Dany also resonated with me a lot. She was one of the girls at the centre who was a gem; she was so kind and happy despite everything she had been through.
8. Would you like to go back to Cambodia in the future?
9. Would you change anything about the trip?
No – everything was amazing. It was also really nice having meals at NGO restaurants as it made every meal more meaningful.
10. What would you tell students going on the cycle next?
The cycle itself is hard; not because of the hills (there are none!) but because of the heat and long distances. It certainly tests you, but my advice is just keep going; it’s a really cool feeling when you finish the 400km ride as you’re so grateful for the comfort and the small little things in life. Keep raising awareness of the issue and, remember, if you can just change one person's life that is amazing!
We would like to thank everyone who supported these girls and their mothers. They have met so many amazing women along the way and have had experiences that’ll stay with them forever.
We hope you enjoyed following us on our journey and hope this inspires you to kick-start your own School Cycle!
For anyone interested in getting involved and organising their very own School Cycle, please contact Clare@projectfutures.com or head to our website www.projectfutures.com.