"You hear people say they have had life-changing experiences. This was"
Sally is a 56 year-old former Pre-school assistant from Western Australia who volunteered with Globalteer’s Cambodia Community Project for 2 weeks in November 2014. For her placement Sally was assigned to a rural community project located 25km from Siem Reap were she helped local staff with English classes. Here is Sally’s account of her time at the project.
A life-changing experience
“You hear people say that they have had life changing experiences. This was. At 56 and with my own children in their early 20’s I wondered if I would fit in, both at the school but also with the other volunteers. I needn’t have worried. The Globalteer Volunteer Coordinator and Project Manager are warm, welcoming and provide a comprehensive tour of Siem Reap as well as a visit to your project to get a feel for where you will be working.
"The volunteers I met on my first day will, I hope, remain lifelong friends. No matter our ages, we were all sharing an experience that would change us and create amazing memories. There was a lot of laughter and, when it was time to say goodbye, many tears.
“You can’t help but be affected by the Cambodian people. They have so little but give so much. Their smiles and warmth, acceptance of their life and appreciation of even the smallest things are very humbling.
“But it was the children at the project that truly won my heart. My role in the school was to assist the teachers by working with the children on pronunciation and to allow them to hear English from a native speaker. I was also lucky enough to be able to prepare and deliver some very easy lessons – something I never expected to do but which I thoroughly enjoyed".
Giving the kids a chance
“During my 2 weeks I also visited the village homes of some of the children with the project staff as part of an ongoing needs assessment. It is obvious that the parents of these children, some of whom have no literacy or numeracy and suffer debilitating illness, are desperate for their children to have the opportunity of education that they didn’t have. The project plays a big part in this.
“Leaving was a very emotional experience. All I did was give up 2 weeks of my time. In return I received the experience of a life time. The teachers and children at the project are exceptional. They are the future of Cambodia. Although they come from a very poor village that is barely accessible by road during some times of the year, with no electricity, plumbing or clean water these children aspire to be doctors, teachers, accountants and movie stars! I have no doubt that these dreams, for at least for some of the children, will be realised.
“My heartfelt thanks to the children and families of the village, the teachers, the Project Manager Lisa, who is doing amazing work, the Volunteer Coordinator and my lovely fellow volunteers for the most wonderful time of my life. I will be back.”
Really making a difference
“It was emotionally life-changing to see how people live in these rural parts of Cambodia. Having a background in the health profession, seeing so much disease and disability was very confronting for me. Rural Cambodians have no concept of a “health care system” and I was lucky enough to help take a few families to the Angkor Children Hospital where they provide free care and medication.
“This is not as simple quick fix though, as spreading health and hygiene awareness is the only way of preventing certain cases of sickness and disease from getting too severe. This is one of the steps the project is taking with their breakfast programme as an alarming number of problems are caused by malnutrition. Globalteer has to be commended for providing transport, food and support to families in the village for their health care.
“An example of going above and beyond is sending tuk-tuk drivers at 5am to pick up families from the village and bring them into town for check-ups and operations. Lisa (the project manager) even spent her Saturday at the hospital to make sure one of the students was OK. The compassion I witnessed was infectious and I am so glad I chose to donate to Globalteer. If you are thinking of doing something to help I could not recommend Globalteer enough. It is a once in a lifetime experience."
If you would like to follow in Tahli’s footsteps and help us to help improve the lives of rural Cambodian families then please visit our Cambodia Community Project pages.