This prize is in memory of the Merchistonian and former School Governor, Bill Wilson. Preference is given to applicants who are undertaking travel projects of a charitable nature.
One of last year’s winners, Ben E, shares his experience with us.
In July I travelled as part of a group from South Morningside Explorer Scout Unit to the village of Banteay Kabalchin in Cambodia to help build two new classrooms and refurbish existing parts of their school, ravaged by termites.
On arrival we had two days acclimatisation in Phnom Penh learning about the recent brutal history of the Khmer Rouge regime.
We then travelled six hours by bus to the village and set up our campsite in the school grounds, living alongside the local community and mosquitoes! For a fortnight we worked moving stones, compacting sand and rock, brick laying, sanding, grouting and painting in temperatures in excess of 40°C and humidity of up to 90%. We also had the opportunity to meet the villagers, Buddhist monks from the local temple and spend time with children from the school. They were fascinated by our kilts, enjoyed listening to us sing Scottish songs and had fun competing with us in a sports day. A group of Cambodian Scouts came to visit us and swap stories (their English was better than our Khmer!). The school was officially opened on 17 July with a blessing by the monks, speeches, the unveiling of a plaque inscribed with all our names and a party involving the community and partner charity who had facilitated the whole project.
We spent the next week in Siem Reap having cooking lessons from a local restaurant, visiting the world heritage site Angkor Wat and taking a guided quad bike tour at sunset along paddy fields.
Our month in Cambodia concluded with a few days on an island: jungle trekking, snorkelling and relaxing. I returned to Edinburgh with incredible memories and the knowledge that I have made a small difference in enabling the children of Banteay Kabalchin attend full time rather than part time education.