Volunteering in Cambodia is a real eye-opener. I’ve spent the last week visiting rural communities across eastern Cambodia, searching for suitable recipient projects for Youth Star’s next batch of volunteers. Our volunteers are recently graduated Cambodians who we support to go out into the countryside, both to help educate local communities about various issues, but also to develop skills for themselves before they enter the employment market. I went to assess four communities, two in the province of Prey Veng and two in Kratie province.
|Our next batch of volunteers undergoing pre-departure training in Phnom Penh|
Volunteering in Cambodia has helped me understand some of the challenges rural communities are facing much better. The major issues facing rural communities are human trafficking, access to education, gender-based violence, and health issues – particularly malaria which is highly prevalent in Kratie. During the week I managed to get bitten dozens of times so if the blog goes quiet in the next couple of weeks I’d like to wish you all well, and I promise to save you a seat on the other-side!
|The type of weather that mosquitoes love, but cows seem less keen on.|
Volunteering in Cambodia is a great way to see how Cambodians outside of the cities really live – in wooden shacks without electricity and running water. To shower they use rain water or a dip in local lakes or rivers. I don’t suppose I need to explain the situation regarding sanitation.
But in spite of their circumstances, the people were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and the children in particular are absolutely adorable, always eager to practice their English with me. I just hope I haven’t inflicted them with my German accent!
One of the communities we’ve previously supported was able to set up a youth club which continues to organise community campaigns on issues such as the dangers of migration. They produce big banners and conduct role plays to raise awareness, so that when that nice man visits from Phnom Penh – claiming to be a Professor offering free scholarships for young girls – instead of agreeing and inadvertently sending their daughters away to some dingy brothel somewhere in south east Asia, they say no thanks and kick him in the nuts (that’s not precisely what we teach them – sadly my ‘don’t be fools, kick him in the balls’ campaign was blocked at concept-planning stage).
|One of the youth clubs I visited|
The youth club buildings were built from scratch through fundraising activities conducted by local youths. They also function as libraries, where children flock to read to enhance their life prospects. One of the youth club members asked me if I can send them some more books because they have read all the books already and are now reading them for the second time. It’s so inspiring to see how eager they are to learn.
|A children’s club that also conducts awareness-raising campaigns. Some children appeared happier to be photographed than others!|
To get clearance to run our programmes we had to meet with the local village chiefs and Councillors. Their democratic chamber was not quite the Bundestag, or even Bedford Borough hall, but one thing which unites German, British, and Cambodian politics is that these fellas know how to talk, and talk, and…
|Village Chiefs and Councillors|
|Cambodia’s next generation of leaders?|
And much like local politics in the UK, potholes are an issue which just doesn’t go away.
[On a gravely serious note, there was one major diplomatic incident, when one of the village chiefs asked me if I support Manchester United because I look like I’m from north England. Hopefully in his mind he was imagining me paired up with David Beckham, and not Paul Scholes!]
Volunteering in Cambodia is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life! Have you ever done some volunteering in Cambodia or other countries? Please let me know in the comment box below. I would love to hear your experiences.
PS: More photos of the trip can be found on our facebook page!