In 2006, there was a desperate appeal from the Salesian Sisters in Cambodia for help to provide clean water in a village called Phum Chreh on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The only source of water for the villagers was a muddy pond shared with animals grazing in the empty land around it.
Medical attention was urgently needed at the village of Phum Chreh. At the Don Bosco school in Phum Chreh, the children were so poor that the meals which they received in school were their only meals for the day. There were many poor families in the village and child prostitution was also common.
In June 2006, a team of medical students from Singapore went to set up the water filters requested by the Salesian Sisters and saw the need for medical care. In December 2006, a group of 20 from the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace went to provide medical assistance to the students of Don Bosco and the villagers of Phum Chreh.
In 2007, Advent Cambodia Trips (ACTs) was formed and it organised fund-raising projects for the building of an additional floor, auditorium and covered playground for Don Bosco Phum Chreh School. It also raised funds for several dozen scholarships, including a project with Raffles Girls Primary School in which each class sponsored a child for six years. In December 2007, ACTs went on its first trip to spread the joy and love of Advent to Phum Chreh, Cambodia, thus starting an annual tradition.
In 2008, ACTs conducted educational classes, dance and cooking sessions, medical clinics, nativity plays and Advent parties in addition to packing ‘love parcels’ for children and needy families. Besides that, ACTs raised money to build a dormitory-cum-vocational home for 200 girls at risk and initiated an annual rice and oil programme for 1,700 children in Cambodia.
In 2009, ACTs organised new activities which included the building of grottos dedicated to Mother Mary at Tuek Thla, Tuol Kork and Baby Jesus Parish, dental clinics, and catechism and computer classes. ACTs also extended its help to the Missionaries of Charity Home for children with AIDS. Fund-raising, which included a private charity gala dinner, was held to pay for the rice and oil programme and the completion of the vocational school at Tuol Kork.
The 2010 trip brought the participants to the Missionaries of Charity Home for children with AIDS, with volunteers doing minor repairs, painting, packing 'love parcels' and shovelling manure. The medical team, which included medical and dental students from NUS, treated more than 400 patients. They brought with them new technology in the shape of fingerprint readers to maintain patient's records for future missions. Children were given catechism classes and there was a broader range of educational programmes. Participants also got to experience life at Banteay Prieb, a Jesuit-run landmine shelter, by having lunch with the residents.
ACTS 2011 mission to Cambodia will be led by His Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Fr David Garcia and Fr Gino Henriques.
To date, ACTs has organised four Advent trips, namely:
- 14–21 December 2007 Mission to Phum Chreh, Cambodia (56 volunteers)
- 15–19 December 2008 Mission to Phum Chreh, Cambodia, led by Fr Erbin, Fr David Garcia and Fr Joseph Yao (180 volunteers)
- 14–18 December 2009 Mission to Phum Chreh, Cambodia, led by Fr Joseph Yao and Fr James Tan (240 volunteers)
- 11–19 December 2010 Mission to Phum Chreh, Cambodia, led by Fr David Garcia (256 volunteers)