Doing a Cambodian EDventure will be one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can do. Not only does it lend another perspective on what makes life worth living, but it also provides life experience and skills that will be vital in whatever career you choose to do. There is something that everyone can learn from the Cambodian people. They are warm and friendly and have the drive to be as influential in society as possible. You will start off nervous and excited but once you are welcomed into their homes, offered a drink and asked to join in on their celebrations, Cambodia starts to become a second home.
When I first mentioned to my family that I was going to be a part of a volunteer program, they asked me why? And I said “Because I want to help those that are less fortunate than me”. Society for me should be constantly encouraging us to not only help ourselves but others too so that can we can flourish and grow together.
This is just one of many life lessons I learned from this experience. I was thrown into an environment where I was foreign, disorientated and new. I had never taught English before, let alone to a group of students that were not only studying English as a second language but were at different levels as well. In here lied the first challenge. You are teaching these children for 3-4 hours, chances are some will understand what you are teaching them in 5 minutes and for others it may take 2 hours. But this teaches you to be patient, talk even slower and more clearly and really articulate every letter. Soon you start becoming comfortable with running a class, playing games and ensuring the kids stay engaged. Then the little things like teaching them “Hakuna Matata” or how to brush their teeth become memories you will have forever.
They open your eyes to what it is like to live in a third world country and they give life purpose and meaning. By allowing the children to influence your thoughts and ideas you adopt a greater perspective on the world and realize that all it takes is one person working with like-minded individuals to create change. By having the patience and passion to do this, each day becomes more special.
..and the rewards don’t stop there, with each day that passes the children become more attached. This helps when you get towards the end of the two weeks where you are tired and are asking yourself why it is important to be there. The answer lies in the children; by helping them grow and develop you can have a small impact in their lives and of those around them so that Cambodia continues to grow.
I set out on this journey wanting to leave an impact on the life of at least one other person. For me this was acknowledged on two occasions. First was when we had finished repairing a village library and the children looked up at us with eager eyes, just waiting until we read one more sentence or played with them for one minute longer. The second was on my last day at Baray Village School where we were leaving in the Tuk Tuk and a few children kept running after us because they did not want us to leave. That was special and touched my heart.
These EDventure programs are structured so that you are pushed far enough out of your comfort zone that you have to adapt and grow to keep up with the intensity of the program. I would not have it any other way though because now I have the ability to empower others to help, to be a leader within society and to focus on what is important in life. You make an amazing group of friends, meet some truly inspirational people like Hongda and Savong and take on a Cambodian approach to life that is simple, loving and thought provoking. You will develop in ways that you have not thought possible. The program is not designed to be purely of an academic nature with you learning about the khmer rouge, Angkor wat and the killing fields, as well as having plenty of time to explore and relax. I encourage you to stop and take in each moment because before you know it you will be saying goodbye.
So as you read this reflection I encourage you to help someone less fortunate than you, challenge yourself to keep learning and growing and thrust yourself into one of these programs because not only will you have aided a good cause but you will come back wiser, stronger and happier than before. What are you waiting for…?
Bradley Newton ~ Monash University0