In 2011, ACTS started a mission trip to the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang. This was the first time ACTS supported the missionary work of the Don Bosco Sisters outside of Phnom Penh. The Sisters had seen how happy the Cambodian children in Phnom Penh were whenever ACTS had their mission there, and they wanted to replicate the experience in Battambang.
Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia and is at the heart of the rice production region of the country. It is one of the poorest regions of Cambodia but it is also where the largest and oldest Catholic community in the country is found. Many Catholics fled to the area during the Khmer Rouge regime and stayed on after the civil strife ended.
In 2014, after getting encouragement from Bishop Keke, ACTS expanded the size of its mission there from 30 to 120 participants. Since 2015 ACTS now gathers aproximately up to 180 missionaries. This will allow more people to experience an overseas mission that can serves to revive them spiritually.
Besides assisting the under privileged in Cambodia, the ACTS missions serve as a means for the Singaporean Catholic to take pause from their daily routines, take part in a meaningful experience, reflect and revitalise their faith. Before each mission trip, we spend time preparing ourselves spiritually, guided by our Spiritual Director, Fr. Jovita. We are reminded of the Church’s call for us to be missionaries and also learn more about the Church’s social mission. During the mission trip, we celebrate mass every morning before beginning our work day and we close it by having reflection sessions. The strong bonds developed during these sessions remain with us, and many continue their fellowship after returning back to Singapore.
The experiences gained by our participants have been highly positive. Some of the verbatim written feedback given to us are:
- “I didn't expect to be so touched. The people in Cambodia have taught me very much about how to live and I hope I can keep this memory alive.”
- “Enriching and fulfilling experience. Felt blessed to be part of ACTS Battambang.”
- “Thank you ACTS for this mission for me to learn and share ideas/knowledge, I learn to understand and take things with grace and be thankful for everything.”
What John Lee and a few parishioners from The Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace started back in 2006 is now a growing social mission. Today,ACTS garner over 350 volunteers from Singapore and from as far away as India and China, even the U.K. and the U.S. in this annual organised humanitarian outreach to 5 Don Bosco Schools and 8 village communities during the season of Advent, a season of renewed hope.
ACTS Phnom Penh remains a popular and fertile ground especially for Catholic parishioners who want try out first-hand experience of doing overseas mission work as a family unit. Anyone from any religious persuasion from 12 years to 75 years can sign up!
During the week’s mission, ACTS organize works spanning from:
- Education, Dance & Sports for primary to vocational school levels.
- Nutrition & Healthcare education including dental, ophthalmology and outpatient clinics for over 3,000 low-income Cambodians.
- Home repair works including painting walls & murals and gardening works.
- Food & Oil Program & love parcels delivered to over 6,000 families
One of the major highlights in 2014, was the inauguration of a newly built Don Bosco High School in Teuk Thla, designed by our very own Singaporean Catholic architect and majorly funded by 5 years of ACTS fund raising activities. At the end, Salesian Provincial Superior, Sr. Teresita Garcia sums it up best when she says ‘ … even the poor children deserve the best.”
Daily masses led by our Spiritual Director, Fr. David Garcia and end-of-the-day reflections kept our spirits focused and helped all participants to remain grounded to serve with joy and humility.
ACTS Phnom Penh will continue to welcome anyone who wants to answer the Church’s invitation to evangelise and bring Christ closer to those we walk with.