Cambodia – a volunteer stresses the importance of flexibility

By Kate Stefanko. Filed in local partners, project news, volunteer stories  |  
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people and places’ volunteers have so many skills and experiences to share with local communities – the following from Stephanie, an American social worker with a particular interest in nutrition.

I had an incredibly wonderful experience with Treak Community Centre . I enjoyed my time immensely and was able to quickly integrate into their work in the community! The staff members at  Treak Community Centre were very supportive, kind and welcoming.

Stephanie with local staff, Dara & Pechey

During my time there, I assisted the head teacher with English classes, completed interviews regarding housing and education in the local community, and developed the framework for a nutrition program. I felt I could openly express my thoughts to local project staff members.

I believe the nutrition education program could continue to be developed and implemented within the school. The work I completed merely provided a beginning framework.

On my last day, I completed a workshop with all of the staff members to teach about adequate nutrition. I provided classroom ideas and the teachers at the school were interested in the subject. Future volunteers could expand by developing lessons for each level of class (nursery through advanced) that the teachers could use to teach the subject.

and our next people and places’ volunteer will build on Stephanie’s work – they’re in touch with each other and exchanging information and ideas – continuity !

There are many successes I feel occurred during my placement. I quickly learned that being a native English speaker was extremely useful for the students’ pronunciation of words in the classroom. Developing relationships with local staff and community members is also a wonderful success— I enjoyed participating in a variety of activities at the community centre with them.

Although the time I was in Siem Reap was limited, I was able to provide a basic framework for the research areas I came to work on. Occasionally communication between staff members seemed to be lacking, but these instances were resolved quickly – a practice in flexibility! I practiced flexibility daily and cannot stress that enough when volunteering. I believe international volunteering expands your understanding of different cultures in ways that simply reading or discussing alone cannot do. It also allows for personal growth in many different ways. Most importantly, sharing skills to improve a community program can benefit many for years to come.

The absolute best moments of my volunteer experience took place when I went into the local community with the head teacher to complete interviews regarding adequate housing and education. It was through those interviews that communication between Treak Community Centre and the students’ parents improved and we were able to learn more about the needs of the students in their homes and community. The parents were very welcoming and eager to discuss their desires for their children—and provide insight into why education is important in their families. I believe this experience provided a strong cultural context for the students I was working with in the classroom and enhanced my overall experience greatly.

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