My heart simply swelled with pride and love for the artists, for the students and for ISTA because I was a part of something that brought Cambodians a little bit further out of their dark past and into their bright and hopeful future.
I am sure that all theatre teachers and artists can relate to the experience of that one show, that one teacher or that one event that they poured their heart into and left a lasting impression. For me, that was the Phnom Penh high school Connect festival this year—and it came straight from the heart. This event was two years in the making but it was my connection with the country of Cambodia for the past thirteen years where it actually all began.
I fell in love with Cambodia the first time I ever stepped foot in the country. I had moved to Singapore thirteen years ago and in the beginning, a trip to Cambodia to see the temples and explore its cities was just another box to tick from my long list of places to visit while living in Southeast Asia. I knew very little of the country and had a vague understanding of what really happened there and the impact that genocide had played on its current state. I saw a country that was economically not like its neighbours but had expected to have the usual tourist experiences of eating new foods, riding in tuk tuks and doing some shopping during my travels. The school I was working for in Singapore had established a few programmes that I had heard of over the course of my first year where the teachers were supporting house-building projects and financially supporting a school that had students in need.