An overseas excursion was a life-changing experience for a group of students from Kirrawee High School this year.
A total of 16 students travelled to Cambodia as part of a 12-day social justice trip to tackle housing, health and education in critically impoverished rural areas.
They raised almost $7000 to fund the build of two houses for impoverished families in rural Siem Reap. Students also donated clothes, shoes, pushbikes and five water filters to families to ensure clean drinkable water to prevent cholera, especially in children.
The initiative is part of the school's commitment to encourage students to embrace humanity.
It came after the school partnered with My Gap Year, an organisation that combines adventure travel with volunteering in third world countries.
Students contributed to improving the basic needs of life, including shelter, and helped construct houses for poor families. They dug holes, mixed cement, constructed frames and put their newfound carpentry skills to good use.
They also assisted in the Water for Cambodia Project, which produces clean drinking water from contaminated sources.
Students had the chance to interact with children, teaching them English and playing games.
Lisa Warner, the school psychologist who accompanied students on the trip, says co-curricular activities that support real world problem solving learning have greatly expanded at the school.
"It is seen as building empathy and developing a global outlook to enable students to be respectful global citizens," she said.
"We are constantly looking at ways our students can develop their knowledge and expertise of real world social justice issues and to have the opportunity to make a real difference to others in their community and beyond. They developed a sense of teamwork and the importance of giving back."
It was not all work and no play. Students also experienced many of the cultural sights and tastes, trying local delicacies such as papaya salad with scorpions, tarantula donuts and chocolate fondue with crickets.
"Two families and their village let us into their homes and welcomed us with open arms - such a beautiful community of kind and gentle people," year 11 student, Lillyrose, 16, said.
"With this hard work we have been able to have such a vital role in ensuring the health and longevity of their families and the surrounding communities."
Joe, 16, says the experience made him appreciate what it sometimes "taken for granted."
"Despite not having much in comparison to many in Australia, the people were appreciative for what they have and always happy and friendly," he said.
"The sense of pride, achievement and accomplishment of making that positive impactful contribution to the families will stay with me forever. A relatively small effort on our part by a small group of people can make a significant long-term difference."