Liam Marchant absorbed the sights, sounds and smells as he walked down a street in the town of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
“It was nothing I had experienced before,” said the Boise High School senior.
Liam volunteered in Cambodia for 10 days in March, delivering bicycles and backpacks to kids in need. The volunteer work had such an impact on his life, he now wants to teach English and music to kids in Cambodia.
“I really connected with the people there,” Liam said.
He has traveled internationally before to Canada and Ireland, but this time he felt he was placed in a different world. The 18-year-old is set to travel back to Cambodia in the spring to make a bigger difference than before.
Liam is involved with Pedals and Packs, a service project through the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. He was introduced to the venture through his teacher Sharon Hanson.
“The spark was in Liam’s eye the moment I told him about the opportunity,” Hanson said. “He was open to the experience and went without expectations.”
Hanson and Liam joined 17 people from Boise, including students, teachers and community members, on the Cambodia trip. The group distributed 100 bikes and 200 backpacks to village kids who travel a far distance to school.
Some kids walk nearly eight miles to school, through the jungle and rugged streets. Students who receive bicycles have a high academic achievement standing or live in a difficult home situation. Receiving a bicycle serves as a reward and incentive to stay in school.
“The kids were ecstatic and had been waiting three months for a bike,” Liam said. “The bike doesn’t just go to one kid it goes to the entire family.”
The bicycles cost $50 each and are refurbished in Cambodia. Liam collected donations for the bicycles and received rulers, pencils and stickers from Boise businesses for the backpacks.
“You feel good inside when you see the kids happy,” Liam said.
He feels the need to continue to help. Liam is working with a student artist at Boise High School to create a coloring book for kids. He plans to bring the coloring books over to distribute.
“This was life-changing for me,” Liam said. “Cambodia is my home away from home.”
After high school graduation, Liam plans to go back to Cambodia for the summer to teach English and music. He plans to return home in August to attend the University of Idaho. His future plans include opening schools in Cambodia or Southeast Asia to teach.