Georgia Ross - General Care Projects in Cambodia
My decision to take a gap year was a very daunting one. All the choices I had, things I could do, places I could go, frightened me. In school I’d had every day, every hour planned out for me. However, my decision to go to Cambodia was the best one I’ve ever made.
I still remember looking at all the countries you could go to with Projects Abroad and being utterly amazed at the size of this organisation. I chose Cambodia, booked my whole trip in January and left in February. Despite only have nearly a month to organise this, Projects Abroad were on board from the first phone call.
My Care placement
I was living in Phnom Penh for 2 months volunteering in an orphanage called Home of Home. Four Indian brothers ran this orphanage from Mother Theresa’s organisation. Night and day these brothers looked after about 15 disabled boys and 15 young boys with HIV.
Our days were always full here; there was always something to do with these boys! Whether it was feeding them lunch or giving some of the boys’ physiotherapy. The brothers suggested in the morning we should help one boy each, so I looked after Tim most mornings. Tim was about 14 years old, blind and mute. He couldn’t walk properly due to his condition and the orphanage did not have the right equipment to help him do so. Twice each morning I would take Tim on walks around this huge orphanage while talking to him and making him laugh. At the end of my two months there he was the one I noticed a change in. He knew me, I felt like he trusted me and knew that I was there to help him.
My Second placement
After the most amazing 2 months I changed projects to go to Island, where Projects Abroad has a Conservation project. However, I, along with one other volunteer, were going to help on a teaching project. When I arrived on the island, standing on the pier I was blown away. This tiny little island was so beautiful yet so unknown. I was so shocked at the size of this island! One night we were sitting at one of the ‘cafes’ (if I can even call it that) and I asked another volunteer how to get to the village. As it turns out that was the village.
Living on the island allowed me to see the reality for the people in Cambodia and some of the hardships they have had to face. Last year, the village was under threat of being taken over by a group of developers. A year later they have been told this is no longer going to happen and the villagers are now working hard to build back their homes. For me, this was the most eye-opening part of my trip. Seeing how hard working these people are, how kind and generous they were considering how little they had and seeing the great responsibilities children are given at such a young age.
My Favourite Experience
The best part of my experience in Cambodia was the Cambodian wedding I was lucky enough to attend. The whole village had been invited. The family all sat down to dinner first, then the close friends and then everyone else comes later. It was so lively with dancing all night- you couldn’t stop! The Cambodians sure know how to have fun!
My Cambodia Home
Our accommodation on both placements really added to the experience. In Phnom Penh we were situated on Street 112. We were right in the heart of it all, with places to eat and drink and things to see all around us. Our cooks gave us a real taste of true Cambodian culture. Every night they cooked our dinner and lunch for us, which always included rice! It did take a while to get used to the local food.
On the island, our accommodation was slightly different. I was staying in a bungalow right on the sea, the waves being the last thing you heard at night and the first thing you heard in the morning. Living with no electricity or WIFI was really difficult at first but before I knew it I had been there for a month and had loved every minute.
Being without distractions, such as social networking sites or television, allowed us all to become a very close group of volunteers. Most nights included playing cards over and over again, or having a bonfire on the beach. I will never forget my last night on the island. We all went to the beach; the quietest and most beautiful beach, and had a bonfire. On this beach was where I saw luminous plankton for the first time, which was absolutely amazing!
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.