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Two weeks volunteering in Cambodia

I was blessed to land upon a really unique opportunity to travel to Cambodia, last minute. Without too much thought, I packed, organised my passport & visa, applied online & went on the most valuable trips of my life, to date. *To volunteer I applied through an organisation called Globalteer.

We flew from Brisbane – Phnom Penh & paid for the tourist entry visa which is $30 USD. We stayed at a gorgeous little guest house in the heart of the bustling capital. We visited the devastating killing fields, Tuol Sleng genocide museum, the National Museum of Cambodia & the Independence monument.

 

We also ate a lot of delicious food & I made it my mission to find Buddhist monks that were okay with having their photo taken. It was incredibly overwhelming being in an unfamiliar environment, in a hot climate & being exposed to poverty that I had previously been sheltered from.

 

Once we moved from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap we were collected by a guide & driven by tuk-tuk to our volunteer accommodation. It was a 3-storey building where everyone that was volunteering for the same company stayed. It was about 15-minutes from the main street of the city & around 35-minutes from where I volunteered. There was a hired tuk-tuk driver who just sat out the front of the compound & waited but a lot of volunteers rode in groups together to their placements.

 

I am not a qualified teacher, so I was concerned about what I would be doing whilst volunteering. I did a reading program with children aged 8-12. The day is broken down into two parts & the children are not there all day.

 

Before school, they have a breakfast program & then mandatory teeth brushing. The first session is 9am-11am, one hour is in Khmer & the other hour is in English. Each day a different subject is taught. The volunteer plans the English lesson & then teaches it with the assistance of the local Khmer teacher. 

Once 11am hit, the children would leave & we had a 2-hour break to plan the next lesson, clean up all the mess, have lunch & relax before the afternoon children arrived for their lesson. Day one I fell madly in love with the adorable students that were there, but I had an especially soft spot for the ‘Bees’ the youngest ones.

 

They were the sweetest, most smiley, cheekiest souls & it was super tough to leave them at the end of the two weeks. After school we would always head into pub street for an afternoon margarita, explore around the area & dinner before heading home to prepare for lessons the next day.

 

Aside from teaching for two weeks, we also took a weekend to buy a temple pass & see a few different must-visit temples within the park. It was $20USD for one day but has now jumped up to $37USD. You also have the option to buy a 3 day or 7 day pass depending how in-depth you want to explore.

 

My personal favourites were Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei & Phnom Bakheng. Most tourists visit Angkor Wat for sunrise & Phnom Bakheng for sunset. I would like to add, however, that all of the temples were breathtaking. We also went to a local monastery to be blessed by the monks. Whilst it was meant to be special & reverent, we all ended up in a fit of giggles as they essential gave us a 5 minute bath with freezing water.

 

In the weeks that I was there, a volunteer swap happened. Some great people that I met, left. Then, some new awesome people arrived. Most volunteers were around my age or a little older, so we formed a bit of a family unit & generally had fun exploring the area & catching questionable transportation. *All part of the experience!

 

I was really emotional having to leave, the children kind of wound their way into my heart & it was tough to say goodbye. They all did a dance & sang a song to wish us a safe journey which was incredibly cute. It’s definitely a goal of mine to go back, visit & volunteer again. Maybe this time for 2-3 months so that I can really learn & appreciate the culture there. I think going back now at almost 30, it would be a completely different experience to when I was 18.

 

If you would like to learn more about Grace house, you can follow them on Facebook 

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