Cambodia Volunteer

** I have updated my fundraising goal to $7,000. ALL additional support will be donated to SHCC. I cannot thank you all enough for helping me continue my journey in Cambodia and for supporting the beautiful, struggling people of this country! **

** Also, if you would rather donate directly to SHCC, here is their website: **

This past summer I was given the opportunity to travel to the rural areas of Cambodia and experience what life is like in developing countries. Never in my life have I witnessed such extreme poverty and living conditions, and never in my life have I met some of the most incredible people.

The first half of the trip was spent working on an elephant sanctuary, where we spent our days caring for the 25,000 acres of land currently under conservation. We spent time caring for the elephants and monkeys that had been rescued from the logging and tourist industries, as well as interacted and taught English to the conservation soldiers on site who had previously lived lives as poachers (what a wonderful transformation in lifestyle!).

Daily activities included things such as building dams, planting cornfields, and preparing meals for the animals. One day was spent at a local school, where we taught the children basic English and played games with the kids (a favorite was "duck duck goose"!). This particular day was most magical for me, because within this past year I have transferred universities and have now begun focusing on a career in international education, with the intent to focus on high-risk areas. Being with these children and having the opportunity to interact with them and teach them solidified my decision to pursue education, and was probably the best day I've ever had in my life.

The latter half of my experience was spent at a rural village about thirty minutes from Siem Reap at SHCC: Self Help Community Center. Here, teenage volunteer villagers from the twelve surrounding villages came together to help collaborate and teach each other how to build stronger communities to/for future generations. Working with the locals was definitely one of the highlights of my experience in Cambodia! They are some of the most beautiful, inspiring people I've ever known.

Our days were split in half; in the morning until noon, we would do things like go to the local market and purchase food, which we would take back to site and prepare lunch (pumpkin is now one of my favorite foods). We would also work with the local volunteers and students, where some of us taught art and English. Sometimes, we were the students, and learned traditional styles of dancing!

The other half of the day was spent building infrastructure for the local communities. We helped cement and paint walls, build huts out of bamboo sticks and leaves, and replace locals' homes with them.

The amount of gratitude received by the Cambodians we worked with was unbelievable. I honestly have never met more generous, gracious, and hilarious people in my entire life! They have the most magical and beautiful souls and deserve all the opportunity in the world.

Unfortunately, Cambodia's history is a violent one. The Khmer Rouge, a communist party led by Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979. Within this time, up to three million Cambodians were mercilessly tortured and killed. Our first day in Cambodia was spent at the "Killing Fields" in Phnom Penh, were we learned in detail what happened to the prisoners and victims of this Cambodian genocide. Infants, children, and men and women of all ages were victims. The brutality forced onto these people was utterly insane. It completely rocked my world to learn about such barbarism, such inhumanity. One of the locals that I worked with, a beautiful, beautiful young girl, actually had an aunt and grandmother that had died in this genocide. The aftermath of these events is one of the major contributions to poverty that still exists in Cambodia today.

I have never connected so intensely to a culture or people before Cambodia. Even though I spent only two and a half weeks in this country, I have never had a stronger sense of belonging or purpose. This has been the most influential experience of my life. I wish everybody from developed countries had the drive and opportunity to be granted exposure of what life is like in third world countries. I have gained such necessary perspective on the reality of billions of people that live in this world, and am only more motivated now to continue to work with those who live in high-risk communities.

The program I selected gave me a great feel of Cambodia's history, culture, and people. Now having a better understanding of where this country comes from and where it needs to go in its future, my intentions are to return to Cambodia but with a focus solely on education. Nelson Mandela once said that "education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world", and I have been a believer in this for years! Education is the most important and necessary tool to initiate any sort of progression and change. This ultimate truth is the reason why I have chosen to pursue education as my future.

The same organization I used to travel and work in Cambodia (Reach Out Volunteers) offers a program that focuses only on teaching, and it resides at SHCC, the community we worked at during our time in Siem Reap! Being able to go back and work with the people I have grown to care for and love so deeply, as well as having the opportunity to enhance my teaching skills for my future career, would be the best gift in the world. I made promises to many friends at SHCC to return one day, and I fully intend to keep this promise. This program also lasts 28 days, so I will be able to spend an entire month in Cambodia, doubling my time in this country compared to my past experience. :-)

I would most appreciate any kind of donation to support this journey of mine. Please help me return to Cambodia to continue to help and work with the people of this beautiful country!

Also, if you would like to make a direct donation to SHCC, please visit their website at ! This organization contains the most motivated, hard-working children and adults that I've ever met, and deserve any help they can get!

Program cost: $2950
Flight cost: $1800-2400


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