On Volunteering in Cambodia
A guest blog post from Raechel Levine:
As part of my travels through South East Asia, I wanted to stop in one location to volunteer. There are many reasons why people volunteer here. For me, it was to have an opportunity to get to know the culture better while supporting the development of at least one of the countries that is enriching my life through travels one day at a time.
When reading about volunteering in Cambodia I learned about how Cambodian people have experienced horrendous hardships and atrocities. I immediately understood why foreign visitors are moved to want to contribute to development and help. I proceeded with caution though after reading several articles warning about the negative effects “voluntourism” can have when passionate well-intentioned foreigners take on volunteer roles they are not qualified for in a culture they don’t fully understand – for example teaching English in an orphanage with no background in teaching. I also became acutely aware of how difficult it could be to distinguish from afar between legitimate NGOs working effectively to make a positive impact and those who were either fake or had dodgy practices.
Through local contacts, I connected with a few organisations that had volunteer opportunities matching my skills and experience. I chose to work with This Life Cambodia because
1. I was moved by the causes they support – they aim to improve education and human rights of children in rural communities and in prison
2. I believed in their mission – to listen to, engage with, and advocate alongside communities
3. I was impressed by the lengths they went to to evaluate and measure their effectiveness at all levels in the organisation
After working with the organisation for 6 weeks, I have come to believe wholeheartedly that these are the right causes to support and TLC’s approach is highly effective. Most charities focusing on education target the primary school age children. However, with only 35% of Cambodians going to lower secondary school (and much fewer going on for further education), I believe TLC’s work with communities to support lower secondary schools – creating stronger schools with more conducive learning environments – is vital!
TLC’s team of 95% Cambodia staff are all very passionate about their work. Most of them have worked hard to obtain Bachelors or Masters degrees already, but still go to classes on nights and weekends so they can learn as much as possible. I have found them to be smart, friendly, hard working, and witty! Interacting with them in this context, I often forget that they themselves have come from very poor backgrounds and still live quite modestly. Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world with many many challenges, however seeing how hard people continue to work even after coming such a long way, seeing their positive attitudes, and witnessing how much they continue to grow even in just 6 weeks made me leave not with despair from the level of poverty here, but rather with an immense amount of hope that with continued support conditions will slowly improve. I can only urge people to continue to support This Life Cambodia so this team can spread their support to as many communities as possible.
Thank you so much to Raechel for volunteering her time, professional expertise, laughter and huge heart!
If you are interested in volunteering with This Life Cambodia, click here to find out more.
Find Raechel on LinkedIn here: www.linkedin.com/in/raechellevine/