Amy Cowell - Care & Community in Cambodia
When I discovered the High School Project to Cambodia with Projects Abroad after many internet searches for programs, I was extremely excited and knew that I had found the organisation and project for me. Going to Cambodia and volunteering in a struggling country was something I’ve always wanted to do, but after hearing stories and seeing photos from a distant family member who had experience in volunteering in Cambodia, I got the volunteer bug and just had to take the plunge and apply. It was the perfect option for me because I could combine a love for travel and experiencing new cultures with a love for helping people in need.
I applied for this project in May, so 8 months before departure, which meant I had plenty of time to prepare and worry about all the silly little things that you forget as soon as you fly out. Excitement kicks in after the sad goodbyes because you know you are on your way to an amazing adventure and there is no turning back. The best part about this project is that it is fully supervised and you have the support of your supervisors 24/7. Before I left on my great adventure, I read many volunteer stories and spoke to some amazing previous volunteers who had so many helpful tips and stories that really help in preparing to visit a new country.
Waking up each morning and having a short walk to the Projects Abroad Apartment for breakfast and then jumping on the mini bus for a new days adventure is something I really miss. Having all meals made for us by Cambodian Women was such a privilege. We got to enjoy such lovely Asian food for 2 weeks. I really miss their wonderful meals.
A days adventure could involve driving outside of Phnom Penh to a childcare centre, catching a boat to Silk Island childcare centre, sightseeing around Phnom Penh, visiting the markets or getting on a bus for a 7 hour drive to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Every day is different and new challenges and experiences arise every day.
When we visited a childcare centre the day would go so fast. It could involve painting, gardening, cleaning and playing with beautiful children. It is a rewarding experience at the end of your placement to see what you created in a short time and how it excites the less fortunate children and makes them smile so bright. I’ll never forget when the group created a tire swing and all the kids wanted to be the first to get to use it, and they were so thrilled with their new play equipment. The smiles are priceless and it is a magical feeling knowing that something you did made another person so happy.
After a big day of work it was wonderful to come back to the accommodation relax in the comfortable rooms we were given. There we could really get to meet the other group members who came from Australia, Korea and the UK.
The most challenging part of the trip for me was when we left each of the centers. I thought each time that we left about the fact that I wouldn’t see these beautiful kids again, and I just wished for them to have a happy and successful life. The children are beautiful and innocent and they deserve to have the opportunities we have here.
The weekend trip to Siem Reap where we visited the Angkor temples was such a wonderful experience. To be given the opportunity to see some of the historic sights of Angkor was such a privilege, and I had an amazing time looking through them. While there we also visited the night markets and had our feet cleansed in the fish foot spas. During our time in Phnom Penh we got to visit the S-21 Prison and Killing Fields where we paid our respects to those who were affected by the Khmer Rouge. We also visited many markets, Riverside, Royal Palace and local restaurants.
My time in Cambodia was so worthwhile and I’ve developed as a person from it. It was an eye opening experience where I learnt about how different other countries are from Australia, and not all people are lucky to have the opportunities we do. Now I am back home, I think about my experience and the Cambodian children met everyday.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.