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Suffolk students serve communities in Myanmar and Cambodia

Courtesy+of+Habitat+for+Humanity+Myanmar
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Suffolk students serve communities in Myanmar and Cambodia

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

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Many college students spend their winter break vacationing or relaxing at home, but this winter, some Suffolk students decided to go abroad and build a house for those in need. This annual winter trip is sponsored through the Center for Community Engagement’s (CCE) Alternative Winter Break (AWB) program.

This year 10 students went to Myanmar and the other 10 to Cambodia. The program has been around for around for nearly 15 years, according to Dominguez. The trip used to be exclusively to El Salvador, but Dominguez and other members involved with AWB wanted “to develop a context in other countries and expand the tunnel vision we had by going to El Salvador yearly.”

These 20 students spend the fall semester learning about developing countries in a course called “Conflict and Development in Southeast Asia” taught by professor Roberto Dominguez of the Government Department. After these students learn about the social and economic strain on developing Southeast Asian countries, they then fly to one and do charity work in the area.

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

AWB is open to graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences and Sawyer Business school.

On the first days of the trip to Myanmar, students gained cultural experience by touring the city. According to Boukou, they toured Buddhist temples and other historical museums.

The participating Suffolk students spent an afternoon teaching an English lesson to the children of Myanmar. Boukou said that one of the most influential moments on the trip was the time she spent with the elementary school students.

The CCE Assistant Director Dennis Harkins elaborated on their experience with the students of the Cambridge School of Cambodia. The Cambridge School of Cambodia is solely funded by a Cambridge non-profit organization. The organization fundraiser raised enough money to build the school and fund it yearly.

Suffolk students bonded with the Cambodian students despite facing a language barrier.

“The kids were able to bond with the Cambodian students through nothing but a smile,” said Harkins. “They knew we were there for them and the bond was apparent because of this.”

Along with the bond students made with the people of Cambodia, they also bonded with other Suffolk students on the trip. Phuong Le, an international student from Vietnam, spent her winter break in Cambodia. Le expressed that she felt a deep connection with her teammates.

“Although I was the only international student on the trip I felt like they accepted all my differences and we became great friends,” said Le.

Most of the trip was spent in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. The students spent 5 days from 9 a.m. to almost 5 p.m. building a home for the less fortunate. According to Harkins, many students willingly worked through their lunch breaks because they felt so strongly about the work that needed to be done. Harkins also explained how deep the emotions ran.

Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Myanmar

“Although there was a language barrier, the smiles communicated it all. There was a feeling of deep bonding that wasn’t communicated through words,” Harkins explained.

Harkins’ students even planned to create a charity organization on campus to further fund the Cambridge School of Cambodia. AWB is somewhat affiliated with the Alternative Spring Break program which takes place only in the United States. These programs tackle social issues within the LGBTQ+ community and with racial discrimination in today’s society. Contact the CCE for more information on these programs.

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Suffolk students serve communities in Myanmar and Cambodia