Recently, Student Educational Adventures hosted a pilgrimage through Vietnam & Cambodia for students from Loreto College, Marryatville in Adelaide, South Australia.

Students who joined this trip sought to strengthen the contacts the school has fostered over several years, working with the Loreto Foundation in Vietnam on this NGO’s many and varied social justice programs. Whilst at times confronting, the students were able to make a lasting contribution during their trip whilst also gleaning an insight into people in remote communities, still often overwhelmed by marginalization and social neglect.

From Vietnam, students travelled overland on an infrequently used river route to Cambodia. Whilst in Cambodia, students visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum where they had a unique opportunity to meet Mr. Nhem En, a former Khmer Rouge collaborator and photographer who was tasked with documenting the inmates before they invariably perished during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime which only ended in the late 1990s. The purpose of this exchange was to examine the themes of guilt, complicity, and forgiveness and how Nhem has come to terms with his past actions. Contrasted to this experience was a subsequent meeting with a survivor of the brutal regime who shared with students his experiences and how he has fared since his years of incarceration and hardship.

A further component of the trip entailed a visit to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) where surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are today, standing trial for crimes committed during their reign of power. Students had the opportunity to go inside the courtrooms to learn firsthand about the workings of the international court as well as meet the Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mr. Bill Smith who shared his insights into the workings of the court, its tribulations and progress in obtaining justice for the victims who lived, and perished during this tumultuous period in modern history.