Alumni Spotlight: Tom Jenkins Bachelor of CPM
A brief trip to Cambodia as part of his degree at UTS became a turning point for Tom Jenkins. He was so touched by his experience that it has shaped his professional life since.
Tom joined 30 other students in 2011 on a project to help build four bamboo houses and complete a school on Koh Ramdual Island near the capital Phnom Penh. The visit was part of the Construction in Developing Communities subject led by UTS lecturer Dr Michael Er.
During the trip, Tom and his best friend Fenwick Joyce, who was also studying for a Bachelor of Construction Project Management, decided to set up a charity.
“I couldn’t believe how people were living in poverty and yet how cheap it was to build things,” says Tom. “It really affected me. Fen felt the same. We were shocked that building a house could literally change someone’s life.”
They thought they could do more by building additional houses, a community centre and a training centre to teach skills. “We thought, let's go and do some more, outside of the uni, and when we graduate we’ll keep coming back here every year and do some good.”
Over the next six months, Tom and Fen laid the groundwork to turn their conversation into a reality. They got in touch with a local charity, and began sourcing building materials and obtaining permission to start their project.
Tragically, Fenwick died in an accident on Australia Day in 2012, aged 29. And knowing his plans, friends and family channeled their grief into setting up a foundation in his name.
“There was a lot of emotion and passionate people who wanted to donate money, which was lovely,” says Tom. “They wanted to carry on what Fen and I set out to do in his memory.”
We were shocked that building a house could literally change someone’s life. We thought, let's go and do some more, outside of the uni, and when we graduate we’ll keep coming back here every year and do some good.
About 300 people live on Koh Ramdual Island with limited access to viable jobs, clean water and medical facilities. Many are widows interned on the island after the Pol Pot regime executed their husbands.
The Fenwick Foundation carries on Fen’s dream of helping people on Koh Ramdual, and every year Tom travels to the island to work with UTS students and lecturer Dr Er to build houses and work on the training centre that Fen envisaged. Tom also leads a group of about a dozen people who are all volunteers who’ve donated to the foundation.
“It’s a real mix. I’ve had a couple of women in their sixties and some young guys, friends and family of Fen, too, who come, and we build together,” Tom says.
When Tom isn’t heading off to Cambodia, he’s working for a safety and workwear company as national sales and marketing manager. Tom says his UTS degree has had real life social impact, and prepared him thoroughly for his job and the work with the foundation. “I definitely got a lot of benefit from the project management skills.”
Learn more about the UTS Bachelor of Construction Project Management.