Volunteering in Cambodia – Jolanta’s Wonderful Birthday Treat

Posted by: Jolanta

This past November I spent two weeks volunteering in Cambodia on the Sustainable Community Development project. It was a gift from my family for my 50th birthday to volunteer abroad. I was nervous my age would be a problem, but as soon as I landed in Cambodia my age went out the window and I met amazing people and it didn’t matter that they were younger than me.

The first week, I worked on the construction and cleaning crew. It was hard work, but still fun and enjoyable. We were missing a lot of materials for the renovations such as paint, rakes, gloves, and brushes. Even though we shared one hammer, a pile of nails, old tree branches and planks, we were still able to create beautiful benches for the school.

I then began working in the classroom! From Monday to Friday I spent as much time at school as possible. Classes began at 8:00 am, then a lunch break at 11:00 am followed by more classes until 5:00 pm. The days were long, but so rewarding and I loved working with the children. I brought some school supplies from home that I thought might help me in the classroom such as pencils, pens, markers, and pencil sharpeners. However, I sadly didn’t bring enough supplies, but the school was very kind and brought me more for all my students. While I loved teaching it proved challenging at times because of the language barrier. The books and materials were not in English and I had to work with 8 to 25 children everyday. The children were so sweet and appreciative that no matter how hard or difficult a day was I couldn’t help, but smile and think of their darling faces.

I would have loved to spend more time in Cambodia because the longer you volunteered the more sightseeing you get to do. However, I still go to go to Angkor Wat, a large religious site, which was stunning. Cambodia’s diverse landscape is very different from my home, so everywhere I went was an adventure and opened my eyes to this new culture that I was living in.

In the evenings, we would meet each other at a local wine bar where we enjoyed homemade palm wine. This is when I truly got to know the other volunteers and meet locals. I wish I could go back and teach in my classroom again! I would recommend volunteering abroad because it is an unforgettable experience and gives so much to these local communities.