Teaching Cambodian kids was my first attempt at doing voluntary service outside Hong Kong, and it was a memorable experience. I applied for the workcamp in a rush and realised that it was actually a big challenge for me to travel alone, not to mention to take good care of myself without friends or family. This journey is the best opportunity to explore a developing country and to broaden my horizon, and it has inspired me a lot indeed.
I was worried about travelling alone to unfamiliar places at first. Concerns about meeting new friends, arrival pick-up and much more popped up in my mind. I cannot deny that I was feeling uncertain and anxious in the beginning until I took a bold move to start a conversation with two girls sitting next to me on the same flight. We had a fun time talking vastly different things about our lives and they were kind enough to stay with me until I met my driver. This short incident reminded me the importance of companionship, especially travelling alone.
The flight journey kick-started my voluntary service in a delightful way but what impressed me the most was the teaching experience I had with Cambodian children. My first encounter with the children was marked by smile and laughter with traditional songs and dances. Cambodian children showed high enthusiasm for learning as they always arrive to class on time despite weather conditions. They enjoyed every moment of the learning experience that we have offered them and kept every word of us to their hearts. They highly value and treasure the classroom setting with foreign teachers, which shows considerable contrast with the Hong Kong children.
Another obvious difference between Hong Kong and Cambodia is the pace of life. Cambodians live in more relax and slow pace which allows them to observe their surroundings, embrace the nature and spend more quality time with friends and family. Cambodian children spend their day chasing one another, playing football and dancing freely under the rain which put them to bed with a smile. Reflecting back on the situation in Hong Kong, we constantly live in a fast pace of life, focus on our work and social media and aspire to have materialistic lives. Seldom do we appreciate the sunset after work or discover the city and nature during the weekend. In fact, beautiful things are around us, yet we rarely explore them.
My trip to Cambodia is also a great opportunity to forge strong friendship among people from different race and countries. I was living under the same roof with people from Italia, France, Spain and Japan. We did not let the time slip away but to treasure meal time and late night to share our home culture. The fact that I successfully taught my fellow friends to master the skills of chopsticks is definitely one of my achievements and rewards from this trip.
I greatly appreciated this voluntary service filled with lots of my first-time experience and explorations as well as the long-lasting relationships with work campers. My greatest takeaway from this experience is the understanding of both the giver and receiver role of a voluntary worker. I am looking forward to my next voluntary travel experience.
Photo and texts by: Heidi [email protected] Reap, Cambodia 2016