My Volunteer Trip in Cambodia!
Hey everyone, just thought I would share what I got up to for 3 weeks! Between July 12 and August 1st, I was in Siem Reap in Cambodia where I helped build two houses and worked in an Elephant Sanctuary for a week!
In September 2014, I joined a volunteering programme with an organisation called Reach Out Volunteers. I'll start off by saying they're an amazing organisation and I had the most incredible experience. I met some of the most wonderful people - both on the programme and in the city of Siem Reap - and I can honestly say it was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes. It both lifted my heart and broke it - the community spirit in Cambodia was phenomenal, but the quality of living reduced me to tears half the time.
I arrived in Cambodia on July 12th. For my first week, I helped to build a house for a family who lost theirs in a storm. It was devastating and the family had to live in a very small shed they shared with the pigs. The Reach Out Volunteers (ROV) team were called to help by the principal at a nearby school that teaches English to young children. The school, by the way, was remarkable and the kids there are so bright. We spent our lunch breaks there where they made us food and we played with the kids. They were so happy and I admire their endless positivity. Back to the house, we helped with the framework, built the bamboo flooring, put the roof on and put the walls up. It was a very hard job to do and some of the neighbours helped us with it - there's the community spirit I was talking about! Even the kids were helping us out a little too, they knew how to nail things way better than I could. They taught me a thing or two. Anyway, we got the house finished on July 17th and the family were so grateful to have a roof over their heads. Something we take for granted and it meant the world to them. We had a house blessing ceremony before we left the family. It was sad to leave but we did our part and it made me so happy to have been a part of it.
On the Wednesday, July 15th, we had a day off so we went to three temples. The first we visited was Angkor Wat - one of the seven wonders of the world! We went very early in the morning so we could see the sunrise over the temple. It was stunning. The temple was gorgeous inside and out. I got blessed by a monk inside too! Then we visited two more - one of them was used in the Angelina Jolie film, Tomb Raider. That was probably my favourite temple. We also visited the waterfall on the Saturday.
On July 19th, we left the comforts of the main city and headed into the jungle to Elephant Sanctuary. It took a couple of hours to get to but we had an awesome bus ride. There are only two elephants at the sanctuary as elephants are very expensive to rescue. Both elephants there are old, between 60 and 70 years old, and one of them is blind from years of illegal logging and mistreatment. It was heartbreaking yet again to see how these animals were treated in the past, but it was awesome to see how well the sanctuary was taking care of them. We got to feed both every day while we also bathed one of them (not Kamlin, the blind one). We did odd jobs around the sanctuary, including planting over 300 trees, weeding, working in the vegetable garden and helping build a dam. We left the sanctuary on Friday the 24th.
In the middle of the week, we visited a school that was nearby. It was a school for kids from as young as 3 to late teenager. In very small groups, we were put into classrooms to help teach English while the regular teachers left the classroom! It was hard at first but it increasingly became more fun being in charge of the kids and helping them learn. They were so intelligent, and my little group had 10-12 year olds.
Then my original group left on the 25th. I had another week to go as I had an extension, and I went back to the village so I could help build another house. The family were living in a very tiny, well, I wouldn't even call it a shed! It was very comforting to know we have helped build them a house with an actual roof over it and will protect them from any storms that may come. Also, a side treat, we went to a ladyboy show (I also went to the same one my first week and one of the ladyboys remembered me, so she got me up on stage!).
There were way more photos taken on the trip but I only uploaded a few here. I have to mention again that this was the best experience I have ever had and I hope I will be able to return to Cambodia to volunteer again. I will definitely be doing another programme in the next couple of years. I strongly urge anyone considering helping make a difference by doing something like this, do it. You will not regret it.
I apologise that this is unrelated to my book series. Also know the second book has me excited and I cannot wait to release it TWO MONTHS TODAY! I hope you all like it, and keep checking this blog for more updates. Thanks for reading guys!