When I told people I had decided to do some volunteering during my trip, I received mixed responses, mostly you could see strange things happening to people’s faces…I now really wish I had videoed people’s responses to ” I’m quitting my job to travel the world and I’m going to volunteer in Cambodia too!”
Facial expressions varied from a ‘ you are crazy’ look, to ‘ please don’t turn into one of them sock and sandal wearing weirdos that don’t wear deodorant!’ looks…
It was the second response that unnerved me the most, not because I would suddenly forget to shower and start wearing socks and sandals, although I do have very bad travelling pants- you know the ones, baggy with crazy colours on, the type that I would never wear walking down the street back home…anyway… it unnerved me because I was worried that maybe other volunteers were like that…
I was basically thinking that I may not have anything in common with them. I not some saint, I wasn’t trying to change the world, I just wanted to experience it in different way and maybe have a little impact and make a small difference..
I needn’t have worried. I met so many amazing people in Cambodia.
I did meet a few people trying to change the world and I was simply in awe of them and their mission. They were normal people doing extraordinary things. Giving up their lives in their own countries to help others in Cambodia.
I have never been anywhere in my life so far, were there are so many people trying to do good things.
The amount of volunteers I met through Globalteer and those working in Grace House are just some of the great people!
In no particular order…
Jim & Ellie, a lovely couple from the UK who had been studying and working in Australia and were volunteering before heading back home after 1 year. ( Their deflated grins when they had to leave will stick with me as one day it will be my turn for ‘re entry!’ back to the UK) these guys befriended me when I first arrived and they were great fun!
A comment Ellie made on my first few days sticks with me too as it creates a vision of the children that is unique and makes me smile.
She said ” when you are dripping with sweat in the class and all the children are fine and you’re wondering ‘How can they not be hot too?’ just look at their noses. You will see 5 or 6 little beads of sweat balanced on the end of their nose…thats it…thats their sweat…and it is the cutest thing ever!” It is…
There was Eurof- of course! My mentor and an excellent teacher. I’ve talked about Eurof and his support and great sense of humour in a previous post.
Jewel – She volunteered with the pre school class. Jewel is a lovely, confident girl from Canada – wise beyond her years I think.She is still travelling too!
Alan and Alison – Alan was the volunteer co ordinator and another ex head teacher and Alison was an ex teacher too who was writing a curriculum for the pre school to use. Alan was great as he always offered advice but more memorably because he always sweated more than me! Phew!
Rosie- one of the youngest volunteers. I don’t think I would have been thinking so much of others and volunteering at the age of 18 so i think its pretty great she did. Bubbly and full of fun. The place got too quiet after she left.
Lynn- a lovely lady from Australia. Lynn has a love of food and a website to prove it. She was quick witted and always says it how it is!
Imran and Amber – a great couple from England. Imran was with me and Phearom for two weeks and we had some fun lessons teaching about the body! We had a lot of laughs teaching the children about the heart and our muscles- a lot of activity based lessons meant our class was nearly always the loudest- just the way we liked it! The children in our class nicknamed Imran Aladdin and called Amber Jasmine- so cute!
Steffi – a volunteer sponsored to work with Grace House to provide some lessons around Photography. Steffi is an extremely talented photographer and her work will leave a legacy in many NGOs in Cambodia. Her biggest problem was that she couldn’t say ‘no’ to anything. She was the hardest worker I met and a very gifted, lovely person.
JD or Jean Damien- I have to admit I didn’t like JD when I first met him, to me he came across as arrogant and interested in talking about himself. It turns out he is those things..but in a really fun and witty way and we got on really well ! If he ever reads this I know he will understand that I think he is cheeky and fab as well!
Marilyn – a retired head teacher from Canada, was so knowledgable and witty, I wish id had more time to get to know her. She had been volunteering for 6 months!
Phearom – the brilliant Khmer teacher I worked with in the Tigers and Rhinos class. She is so lovely, timid and quiet and has a great sense of humour. I think we got on quite well and during my time there id like to think together we made a good team, along with others like Eurof and Imran too.
When we were learning about ‘ our muscles’ as part of the topic for the month, we had everyone pointing to the muscle as a way of checking understanding of the English words.
We put Phearom on the spot and asked her to show us where her ‘Gluteus Maximus’ muscles are…which she did straight away no problems, although i think she was blushing a bit. Then when we asked the children to show us other muscles on the body such as ‘ biceps’ and ‘quads’ which we had well rehearsed earlier…everyone in the class just kept touching their bottoms…for every muscle instead of pointing to other muscles!
Phearom got a serious case of the giggles and could not stop laughing! She was in hysterics. It rubbed off on everyone and we all laughed a lot. However, on a more serious note, after this class, all those children are in no doubt to the English names for lots of muscles and ‘exactly’ where they are on the body!
I’m just glad they learnt a lot of other stuff too as I don’t want to be remembered as being the teacher who taught them about the ‘Ass!’
The other teachers in the school were lovely and welcoming too. We all used to eat lunch together in one of the classrooms. All whipped up by some local ladies in the kitchen on site and it was always lovely.
Most memorable for me was teacher Lun. He taught the older children and he was funny. He was always humming some song or another – usually Beyonce or Adele. One day he asked me if I’d like to see his wedding photographs. I couldn’t believe he wore 13 different outfits in two days! And his new wife wore more than that! I have never looked at so many wedding pictures in my life! He was a sweet guy though and all the children loved him. I found out just before I was leaving that they were having a baby! : )
I also made lots of friends with the other volunteers at Globalteer house and other companies in Siem Reap from all over the world; Letitia from Austrialia – she loved wine & cider – lots in common! Kristina- ended up my travelling buddy across Cambodia and Myanmar, Beth & Thomas- a great couple who were lots of fun, Margaret- a nice lady from Scotland who taught me some of the history about Burma which was very much apprieciated. Alyssa from Austrialia- my neighbour in the house who loved to shop! Kayley from the Uk – Angelina Jolie eat your heart out! And Alex from Melbourne- a fellow traveller to the island of Ko Rong – a very memorable experience.
And so many others…
Like all travelling experiences for me, it’s often the people that make it so memorable and special and my volunteering time is an experience I will never forget x