Monica Nanne - General Care Projects in Cambodia
On the 17th of September 2008 I flew from Amsterdam to Phnom Penh to have the experience of my life! My name is Monica Nanne and I am from the Netherlands. I have been working and living in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia for 3 months with Projects Abroad.
When I first arrived I was scared of everything; the people, the language, the culture, the traffic and especially…. what to expect? Projects Abroad picked me up from the airport and drove me to the volunteer apartment. I met Niet (my Cambodian mum) and all the other volunteers. I felt welcomed and at home straight away.
I worked at The Home of Peace 5 days a week. The Home of Peace, also known as the Indian hospital, is a big centre which is filled with opportunities and people who need help. There is one section which is for patients; it has four rooms for sick, disabled or old people. Then there are the two open air classrooms where the orphans and children from the poor communities have their lessons. Finally there is the orphanage itself where 40 children from the age of 2 years to 15 years live. So there is a lot of work to do!
The children are all HIV positive however, when you arrive do not expect them to be sick, weak and in bed! They are happy, playful children who want all of your attention!
Every morning at 8.00am my moto comes to pick me up and drives me to The Home of Peace which is on the outskirts of Phnom Penh – a 30 minute drive from the volunteer apartment. In the morning I teach the children. I usually have a group of 15 children aged 6-10 years old. I teach them basic English but the arts and crafts activities are the most popular. Before I arrived they had never seen coloured paper, never held scissors and never had a “themed table” in their classroom. I have enjoyed every lesson and so have they!
In the afternoons the children have Khmer lessons so I go and do activities with the patients. This includes making necklaces with brightly coloured beads, painting finger and toe nails and playing with balloons. It really makes their day! It is so much fun even if we cannot speak each others language.
The Home of Peace is one of the many missionary charities which are based all over the world. It is run by nuns who are followers of Mother Theresa; they wear traditional clothing and come to work in Cambodia from many different countries. Sister Carol who is from Singapore and Sister Isabel from New Guinea are the best!
During my stay in Cambodia I kept a blog so all my friends and family could read my stories and see my photographs. One day I put a little message on my website explaining that I wanted to take the children from The Home of Peace to the local water park because they never leave the orphanage. It was amazing how many people donated money. On the 19th November I took the children to the water park to have a day out that they would not forget. It was such a great day and the children had a fantastic time. It was so rewarding.
I did not work at the weekends so I took the time to visit sights in Phnom Penh and the rest of Cambodia. It is an amazing country and even the very poor people always take the time to smile and wave at you. I had a really good time in Kratie when I went to visit the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, at Sihanoukville when I went to the beach, in Siem Reap with the famous old temples and in Sen Monorum where I went elephant trekking. That was the best weekend ever! I had never ridden on an elephant before, it was a fun experience.
During my time here I have met lots of different people from different countries, not only the other Projects Abroad volunteers but also local people and other travellers. I have made a lot of good friends.
At the end of my stay here I have a lot of things clear in my head about what I am going to do with my life. I definitely want to learn another language and I want to become a teacher.
I am really going to miss my children and all the other amazing people I have met over here.
Thank you to everyone who made my experience here so good.
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.