Spotlight Project: Grassroot Initiatives
Agent Orange is a Herbicide that was used by the U.S. military to clear vegetation during the Vietnam War. The after-effects of its use has impacted up to 3 million Vietnamese people, many of them children suffering birth defects. On the Southeast Asia program, our students tutor and volunteer with an incredibly inspiring organization that supports a village comprised solely of those impacted by Agent Orange. The work done by our students during this section, so appreciated by all involved, is equally rewarding both to those volunteering and those getting the much needed special attention from the ARCC students. Some consider this unique project to be one of the most rewarding experiences of any ARCC program.
Travel into the heart of Southeast Asia where you learn about the region's rich history, beautiful cultures and breathtaking natural beauty. Step back in time in Phnom Penh as you take in relics from the Khmer Rouge era and journey to Angkor Wat where you wander through ruins built civilizations ago. Build and install Clean Water Filters. Teach English to eager students. Sail a junk for two days atop the turquoise waters of Halong Bay, trying your hand at kayaking and venturing into hidden caves. Navigate the winding streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi and the bustling metropolis of Bangkok. Ride atop a canoe at one of Thailand’s famous floating markets. Befriend, care and bathe the stately Thai elephant, while working alongside the Mahout, the elephant caregiver, as you learn about efforts to protect these gentle giants. Try your hand at cooking Thai curries and Pad Thai. Experience serenity and Buddhist practices at a Thai Forest Monastery. Volunteer in a hill-tribe village while sharing in traditional daily routines and practices. Your trip concludes over a final feast in Bangkok, where you reflect on the cultures, history and experiences you have lived in the past four weeks.
““It was one of the best experiences of my life; I wouldn’t replace it for the world””
— Landis W., Chapel Hill, NC, ARCC Student
Acclimatization & Phnom Penh Exploration
We begin our summer program in Los Angeles and board our flight to Phnom Penh, where we jump right into our adventure with an introduction to Cambodian culture. Once the “Pearl of Asia,” Phnom Penh is a city that balances the past and the present. No visit would be complete without taking in the relics of the Khmer Rouge era and promenading along the mighty Mekong River.
Village Service & Angkor Wat
Traveling into Cambodia’s countryside, we make our way to our first service section. For the next several days we lend our hands with constructing much-needed infrastructure for the clean water project taking place. We use cement to mold bio sand water filters, then travel to local communities to install the filters. Having fully immersed ourselves in Cambodian culture through our village stay, we then continue on to Siem Reap, where we experience a breathtaking view of Angkor Wat at sunrise.
Teaching English to Cambodian School Children
Next we make our way to a small school where over 100 students eagerly await the arrival of their new “teachers.” This community service project brings us directly into the lives of Cambodian youth. We arrive with much-needed supplies for their rural orphanage and for two days we offer our help by teaching English to the children. When lessons are done, we have the opportunity to play with the children who have so graciously welcomed us into their home. Our efforts are rewarded by the smiles and laughter of our new Cambodian friends.
Sailing in Halong Bay & Hanoi
Bidding our Cambodian friends behind, we cross into Vietnam, where we embark on a two night excursion on a traditional junk in Halong Bay, where more than 3000 islands jut out from the emerald waters. Hitting the water for some kayaking and exploring untouched islands, we spend our nights on deck of the junk and camping on our own private island. Soaking up our last few days in Hanoi, we relish the breathtaking views around us. Leaving Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay behind, we head to the bustling, lively city of Hanoi, where we explore the Old Quarter, sample the traditional Pho and look ahead to our journey in Thailand!
Bangkok Orientation & Exploration
After a short flight to Bangkok we begin our Thai language and cultural orientation from our Thai hosts. During our time in Bangkok, we stroll through lively markets, visit the revered Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha, and cruise the canals on a traditional Thai long boat.
Village Hill Tribe Service
Glimpsing Thailand’s true cultural origins, we travel north to hill tribe country where tribes have managed to retain their own language, customs, mode of dress, and spiritual beliefs for centuries. In the village, we help with much-needed infrastructure such as building bridges or community houses, or renovating and improving the local school. We spend three days living in a village guest house, helping the community while learning about Thai culture first hand. In Chiang Mai we take a full-day Thai cooking class during which we prepare tasty Thai dishes like spring rolls, Pad Thai, and papaya salad.
Elephant Rehabilitation Center & Buddhist Monastery Stay
Jumping into our elephant service work we start a three-day training course in Kanchanaburi. We learn and practice elephant trainer’s tasks and responsibilities, as well as educate ourselves about conversation efforts in place for Thailand's elephants. Whether feeding, riding or bathing our new elephant friends, we form bonds that will never be forgotten. We spend a night at the Suwantawanaram Buddhist forest monastery where we learn from monks about Buddhist customs.
Erewan Falls & Final Days in Bangkok
Leaving the monastery behind we spend a day swimming in the emerald pools of Erewan Falls, before we board our bus for the journey back to Bangkok. We spend our final days reflecting on our experiences these past four weeks and on the new friendships we've formed. We enjoy a final celebration and Final Feast and bid a warm goodbye to The Land of Smiles and Southeast Asia.