Here’s a recent report from volunteer Godfrey who worked on the Community Project in Cambodia:
“I have to say that my first experience on arriving in Siem Reap, as a volunteer was one of great surprise. A tiring journey from the UK ended with a warm welcome from Michael Horton at River Gardens and Deborah Saunders the “Landlady” and an introduction to Khmer cooking!
That was the start of what was going to turn out to be the best 6 weeks of my life.
The first introduction to my volunteering was the participatory seminar at the ConCERT office on child abuse. But the necessity to make myself and the other 18 volunteers aware was dramatically necessary.
As to my own experiences, I was at a school located some 3km from the centre of Siem Reap where the principal objective was the teaching of English to children of many ages. I did not teach for I am an Engineer, civil by profession and nature … and so my practical skills? were to be put to a different use. Alan at Grace House, my boss, had decided that his whole workshop area needed a degree of reorganisation! So I found myself working with seven charming Khmer guys who were in fact all trained electricians. They also had a certain amount of woodworking skills and together we built racks for their tool boxes, duckets for their hard hats and safety shoes, completely fitted out the stores with new shelving, redesigned the workshop office so that more than one could have access, built a shop area for electrical items to be sold to the public and generally brought about a discipline and tidiness to the workplace.
That didn’t mean that I was remote from the school. In fact I felt an integral part and it was extraordinary to see the children receiving such dedicated tuition from the teaching staff and volunteers. There was so much happening around me and enormous credit must be taken by Alan and Bridget for the homely discipline that they imposed on the school. The children and the villages in bringing so much help to these lovely, kind, generous and respectful people.
If I was to pick a particular highlight to my stay, it would be difficult. At work, seeing all the various tasks come to fruition was rewarding in itself and the smiles told a good deal.
I did bring with me an Aquafilter which is a device sponsored by Rotary for purifying water to become drinkable. I gave several demonstration of the filter using some really dreadful water. I drank the water and invited others to do so after me. We are still alive and no sore tummies! I have left the filter with Alan – it may be put to good use in the future.
The arrival at River Garden and also Grace House of Andrea Kramer, a co-volunteer following three lonely weeks would certainly rate as the highlight of my stay. We clicked from day one and for my part, but I cannot speak for her, the remaining 3 weeks were so enjoyable that they passed too quickly.
With regards to my leisure activities – there was little interaction between the volunteers out of hours. We did meet on Friday evenings in the town with volunteers from other organisations under the care of ConCERT and this was organised by Michael Horton and was fun.
I played golf twice with Andrea at the beautiful Nick Faldo designed course; inevitably the temples of Angkor Wat, Anghkor Thm had to be visited along with several others which were on the to do list and the splendid Angkor Museum in Siem Reap.
An outing arranged by Bridget Cordery to the waterfalls in the Khulen Mountains with all the staff and volunteers from Grace House was most enjoyable as was the occasion when I went with (phonetically) Petra on the back of his motor bike to Tonle Sap Lake and the Silted Village where the houses are built 9m above the current water level as this is the height the water rises to in rainy season.
Accommodation – let me say that Deborah Saunders was a lovely lady to have as a landlady and she even offered me a full time job as the hotel maintenance man. Tempting but she couldn’t offer free accommodation and I was off to other places at the end of my stay. Ah well!!
As a parting comment of the whole adventure I cannot let pass my highest praise for the manner in which I, as a volunteer was looked after by Michael Horton, Tokla Min, Nari and Sari, all of the ConCERT organisation. Their regular visits, phone calls and welfare concerns were of great encouragement in such a “foreign” environment. Please pass this on.
This has been an experience the likes of which I would never have dreamed. This was my first time as a volunteer. Would I do it again? Would I go back to Grace House? Would I go back to Cambodia? I think the answer to all the questions is-possibly! Why? Because there are other places that need help also and if I made any contribution to Grace House, then maybe I can do the same elsewhere.”