THE LIONS CHANGED MY LIFE A New Perspective on Life A sophomore studying elementary education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pahoua Xiong had never traveled outside of the United States. When Xiong had the chance to join a service trip to Cambodia with the Global Connections Project—a nonprofit that provides meaningful travel opportunities for college students—the former Leo president felt an inner drive to go. But she needed to raise $3,000 to fund her trip. When her old friends, the Camden Lions, chipped in to cover a quarter of the cost (plus more raised through their Facebook page), this residence hall adviser who loves to sing and play badminton knew she was on her way to a life-changing experience. Q&A: Pahoua Xiong LION Magazine: Why did you feel strongly about going on this trip? Pahoua Xiong: When I attended a Leo leadership conference my junior year in high school and learned about all of the international service Lions do, I thought, ‘I want to do that too. One day I’ll go to another country and serve.’ I felt it was the right time to open my eyes to a different reality and to have the challenge of teaching in such a different place. LM:What was it like teaching English in Singha Village? PX: It was challenging because we didn’t speak Khmer, and the students didn’t speak English. We managed to find ways to communicate without speaking, like body motions and drawing pictures. I was amazed, and it felt really good when their English improved each day. LM: Did you get to know the children? PX: Every day after school we would bike home with the children. That was when we really got to connect. Their living conditions were hard to see. One girl lived in a rundown home with her grandmother, who was taking care of five children while the parents were away working. Despite how little they had, the people were so kind, loving and generous. LM: Did it make you reflect on your own life back home? PX: I realized how privileged I am to have an education, food on the table, a home, a job that I love and my health. My family came to the U.S. from Laos after I was born, so I thought a lot about how different life could have been. It made me very thankful. LM: Was it difficult to leave your new friends in Cambodia? PX: It was so hard. I still look at their pictures every night so I always remember them, and also to not take anything for granted. As soon as I can, I’m going to help sponsor another student to go on this trip and have this amazing experience. Lions, has your club heard from a recipient of your service or charity? Tell us about the feedback you’ve received from those whose lives you’ve changed for the better. Email a brief description to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Thank You” in the subject line.
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