Mahina Purdom - General Care Projects in Cambodia
For as long as I can remember, I dreamt of doing something extra special once the demanding years of my schooling were over. The plan was to spend one whole picturesque year doing whatever I wanted to do. But, when school ended and I was abruptly plunged into ‘the gap year’, I was completely clueless as to what I was going to spend my time doing. The openness of the year was petrifying! After a long time deliberating the idea of volunteering abroad was concocted and before I knew it I was on a plane to Siem Reap, Cambodia to work in a Care placement for two months.
Arriving in Cambodia
It’s quite true to say that I felt extremely apprehensive before arriving in Cambodia. Having never travelled overseas on my own before, I had no idea what to anticipate, but everything about my Cambodian experience surpassed all of my expectations. As soon as I set my bags down beside my bed at ‘the villa’, my home for the next two months, I was met with the warmth of my new house mates and by the next day, my fears of not being able to adapt to the Cambodian lifestyle had melted away, I couldn’t believe I’d only been in Cambodia for 24 hours, it felt like I had been there for months!
At the villa, we had a cook, a cleaner, a security guard and three members of staff who helped with anything and everything. Upon arrival in Cambodia the staff from Projects Abroad picked me up from the airport, helped me get a SIM card, gave me a tour and orientation of the city and of my orphanage and continued to help with any problems or questions I had throughout my stay. You could almost say they were like my Cambodian parents, always looking out for me and the other volunteers.
My Care Project
I spent my days at the orphanage helping to clean, garden and teach English. We also played games, drew, danced, laughed, played and built friendships with the 27 children who lived at the Khmer Social Economic Development Organisation or KSEDO for short. The kids at KSEDO were between the ages of 2-17 years old and were some of the happiest and most friendly people I’ve ever met.
Being only 17 years old myself, it was extremely eye opening to see kids my own age living a completely different, much less privileged lifestyle. They were cheeky and energetic and they were enthusiastic about whatever it was that they were doing, whether it be learning, helping to keep the orphanage clean and tidy or competing against each other in their latest game of elastic rope.
Free time in Cambodia
One of my favourite things about volunteering with Projects Abroad was the fact that I got to meet and socialise with other volunteers. Living in a house, eating, sleeping and breathing the same air as so many different people from around the world was amazing. I was lucky to get such an incredible group of people, most of whom shared the same proactive mind-set about life and were friendly and fun to live with. Needless to say I created super tight bonds with my house mates. I still keep in close contact with them and we all plan to meet again, somewhere in the world.
Myself and the other volunteers spent our weekends adventuring; going to the temples of Angkor, cycling through neighbouring villages, experiencing the night life of Siem Reap, trying new foods, playing basketball, swimming or just chilling out. There was also one very incredible but hectic long weekend spent across the border in Bangkok, Thailand, where we adventured through temples, went shopping in the Pratunam district and visited the amazing Talong Chan floating market, among other things.
I’m so happy I decided to volunteer with Projects Abroad, it undeniably facilitated me to discover a confidence that I never thought I possessed before. It helped me to prove to myself that I actually can do things that, at first, might seem a bit impossible, big or scary and will forever be a reminder to me of what I am capable of doing. I have fallen head over heels in love with Cambodia, volunteering was a truly life changing and valuable experience for me; it gifted me with so many things. I gained a whole new group of friends from all around the world, a wider world view, thousands of memories and the urgent itch to travel back to Cambodia, the place where I spent the best two months of my life, again! I would recommend volunteering to anyone and everyone!
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.