Caitlin Bowie - Care & Community in Cambodia
I arrived in Cambodia late at night, but even then the temperature was still so hot compared to anything I am used to. I had travelled out to Cambodia with one of my friend’s, so that made the journey and whole trip so much more enjoyable. We were picked up by two of Projects Abroad staff and were driven to our guest house which would be home for the next two weeks.
We were greeted at the guest house by our two group leaders of the trip who were so helpful, giving us an insight as to what we would be doing. They showed us to our bedrooms which we would be sharing when more volunteers arrived. I woke up early the next morning and stood on the balcony to watch the most amazing sunrise light up the streets of Phnom Penh.
Home of Hope placement
The first placement I went to was the Home of Hope which is a home for males of all ages with mental and/or physical disabilities. Some of these service users were suffering from HIV/AIDS. At this placement we were building a sun shelter over the children’s outdoor playground so that the children could still use their apparatus whilst the sun is at its hottest.
The Care & Community group that had come to Home of Hope before us had refurbished the physiotherapy room; therefore our group refurbished the sensory room. A sensory room is an area which can provide therapeutic stimulus for those who need it by using different shapes, colours and objects.
During my first placement I came down with a bug and found it hard to participate in the outdoor manual work, therefore, I worked with and Australian occupational therapist who had privately come out to volunteer. I worked with her in the physiotherapy room at Home of Hope.
The service users that she saw were given massage treatments and stimuli such as walking sticks, rubber balls and walking bars to aid their muscles or growth development. I found this helped me immensely as I am hoping to train to become a nurse and being able to spend some time working with someone in the medical profession was so useful.
Khemara Daycare centre
The second placement was at the Khemara Daycare centre and it was almost like a nursery/kindergarten. The older children would go there to learn the basics such as numbers and the alphabet whilst the younger children would sit with picture books and play games. The children would be given a snack as well as their lunch and then go for a nap. After their nap they would have a shower and have their teeth brushed whilst they wait for their parents to arrive.
Our job at this daycare centre was to repair the children’s outdoor play area apparatus so that it looks colourful within the grounds. We also built a vegetable patch for peppers as it was once Cambodia’s pride such as the French have their Cheese and Italy have their wine.
At this placement, our group of 15 was able to work more as a team as there was fewer jobs to do, but they were jobs that required more people. I felt like on this placement we got to know the people we were working with a lot more, for example finding out about their families and home life, where they have live.
Sightseeing in Cambodia
Along with working at the placements, the Care & Community High School Special allowed us to sightsee some parts of Cambodia with a tour guide; this enabled us to get a real understanding Cambodia’s culture and history.
We travelled north to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh and got to visit the Angkor Wat temples which were absolutely breath-taking. It wasn’t like anything I was expecting. I hadn’t researched the Angkor Wat before so I was expecting to see a building like the Taj Mahal; instead I was greeted with old ruins that had worn away and naturally carved into Cambodia’s beautiful heritage.
I also saw a traditional Cambodian puppet show that showed a fable using an art form that Cambodia’s people had mastered over time, it was amazing to see. However, for me, the most amazing intriguing sightseeing spot I saw was the S-21 prison as well as Cambodia’s killing fields. We went here with a tour guide and were given a full insight into Cambodia’s past history on the genocide; I feel because of it, it gave me a better understanding of Cambodia’s people and how Cambodia has had to redevelop as a country.
Why I decided to volunteer in Cambodia
Personally I didn’t choose the destination of Cambodia, my friend that I travelled out with did. I always wanted to go on a volunteering project and he had already chosen the destination that he wanted to go to. He asked me if I’d like to go with him and I jumped at the chance of going with someone that I knew.
I researched the high school care and community project and it consisted of everything that I wanted to do, I had the food, accommodation, insurance and security provided and the co-coordinators were so helpful leading up to the trip if I had any queries. I think my family was also more comfortable with me going go far abroad if they knew I was going with someone that they knew as it’s like having a small piece of home travelling with you.
Leaving Cambodia was difficult, especially as you have lived in their pockets for the past two and a half weeks so it is strange to go from seeing them all the time to probably never seeing them again. I didn’t want to leave Cambodia as I didn’t’ feel that I had been there long enough to fully understand the concept of their culture, however I am so grateful for the experiences that I had out there.
All together I had the most amazing two weeks of my life exploring Cambodia and its people. I would recommend a trip like this to anyone. Personally, I preferred going out with a friend as I found it was more enjoyable to experience my time there with someone who I could remember the memories with. However, if you are going out alone, there are so many opportunities to meet new people and make friends.
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.