A month-long trip to Cambodia gave teenagers an experience of a lifetime.

Year 11 students from Epping St John’s Church of England School and Burnt Mill Academy, in Harlow, brought their school days to a close with the extended trip.

Each student had to raise a total of £3,800 to enable them to go on the trip – with a fundraising quiz night at Epping St John’s attracting support from 140 people.

During the trip, students learnt about the culture and the day to day dangers faced by the people of Cambodia while themselves travelling and working.

The group built wells and toilets, made water pots and reinforced a dam in 87 per cent humidity, before heading out on a four-day trek through a national park.

The 13 students visited sites including the temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

Finley Jacobs-Roth, now Year 12 at Epping St John’s sixth form, said: “The children in Cambodia knew anyone who was not local was there to help them. I got the opportunity to go to a school and teach English.

“I feel I made a difference during the trip. It felt amazing; what we did was real. You hear your parents say there are starving children around the world, but we have seen it now and realise how lucky we are.

“I would like to take a gap year now after sixth form to help some more.”

Students were unable to access much technology during the trip.

Sammy O’Brien, head of Year 10 at Epping St John’s, said: “The people there have nothing, yet we noticed how happy they were. Their way of life was so nice. Our technology didn’t work out there, so we were able to switch off, too. Instead, we sat around a table playing card games – that is the lifestyle we lack.

“In terms of enrichment, this trip showed students how people in other places live and gave them an understanding of another country. It also gave them that overall feeling of supporting others and making a difference to people’s lives. It brought people out of their shells and gave them a sense of selflessness.”

The schools are now planning a joint trip to Kenya in 2021 for Year 9, 10 and 11.