"My only recommendation would be to make your volunteer experience as long as you can."
Mary is a fisheries biologist from the US who volunteered for eight weeks at the Cambodia Indigenous People Project for eight weeks in February to April 2016.
I chose Globalteer as they had the type of meaningful volunteer experience I was looking for. Somewhere I could learn about other cultures and do actual work that would turn out to be helpful in the end – not just a glorified vacation.
Volunteering at the project
My main duty was to provide 'polished English transliterations' of original Bunong oral stories which had been videotaped then translated intro written Bunong, then written Khmer, then written English, then corrected/polished English – which was my job. Eventually I offered to help see if we could possibly publish one of the stories into a book with at least two languages. I may continue to see that part of the project through to its completion if possible!
I was given lots of latitude, which I really appreciated. I could make suggestions and pretty much was allowed to follow up on my ideas whenever and wherever appropriate. Everyone wanted to make sure my placement met my expectations and that I was doing the things I wanted to do – both while working on the project and during my free time.
Highlights of volunteering with the Bunong people
I loved being able to live in the homes of the Bunong people while we collected their stories. They may not have many material possessions but they have the most warm and open spirits, and they welcomed us into their lives without reservation. The struggles they have endured would have found many of the rest of us wanting and yet to look into their faces they have an incredible enduring beauty that comes through strongly on the videos. I will never forget my time with them or with the wonderful Khmer people.
An incredible opportunity
I know that other volunteers will be touched by the warm hearts of the Bunong people as I was. My only recommendation would be to make your volunteer experience as long as you can. I have been in Cambodia for several months and I still learn new things everyday about the Khmer people and the country and language - and about their great food. That's another enjoyable treat in the Bunong village - their food is so delicious!