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Building links with Cambodia

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The lead-up to Christmas has been vastly different this year for a group of young South Australians who have spent the past few weeks helping to build houses in Cambodia.

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Gaby Kinsman, Clare Peterson, Brigid Symes, Catherine Edwards and Ada and Cate Snell are members of Young Mercy Links SA, a network of young people aged 18 to 30 who are passionate about social justice, advocacy and education.

Most of the group are old scholars of Mercy schools and their focus is on refugee support, human trafficking, Aboriginal reconciliation and the environment. They were joined in Cambodia by Sr Meredith Evans RSM, John and Anne Haren and Young Mercy Links Melbourne volunteer Juliet Taracio.

Gaby Kinsman, who attended St Aloysius College, said the aim of the network was to support and work alongside other local groups such as Young Christian Workers, the Circle of Friends and Antioch youth groups.

A major focus of the group for 2018 has been raising $6000 for two houses in Siem Reap for people with disabilities.

The Young Mercy Links members and three supporters of the group visited the Metta Karuna Reflection Centre where Mercy Sister Denise Coghlan has been supporting the Cambodian people, particularly those impacted by landmines, since the 1980s.

Gaby told The Southern Cross that it had been a “truly inspiring week” spending time at the Centre and out in the villages.

The group built a house for a young Cambodian woman called Lom who was born with no fingers and only several toes. She and her one-year-old daughter have been living in a shanty for several years but her sister recently provided her with land to build a house on.

“In our couple of days building we were able to finish two thirds of the house,” Gaby said.

“In line with the program structure of facilitating a community effort, Lom’s family and neighbours will assist to finish the house.”

Sr Denise’s staff members Rhet and Nott, who are landmine survivors, manage the building projects. They told the group that the community approach was a great way of including the recipient of the house and helped with morale and sense of ownership of the property.

Gaby said she and her Mercy Links colleagues were more motivated than ever to provide assistance.

“We will be returning to Australia with renewed enthusiasm to raise funds and come back to this special place,” she said, adding that Sr Denise had identified a school in the area that was in particular need.

“We are planning for that to be our focus for 2019.”

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