Alumni Spotlight: Chelsey McGrath

Chelsey McGrath is from San Diego, California. She is a 22 year old female and attends San Diego State University. She enjoys going to the beach, traveling, and riding my bike by the bay. She volunteered in Cambodia for a month in August of 2012.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Projects Abroad in Cambodia?

Chelsey: As soon as I saw Projects Abroad's website, I knew I liked what they had to offer. They had a variety of projects and countries to choose from, and any questions that I had were answered quickly via email. I could tell by their responses that they really cared about what they were doing and they reason that people wanted to volunteer.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Chelsey: A Projects Abroad staff member would pick me up at 7:45 a.m. and take me to the orphanage. I volunteered at an orphanage with all disabled children and my role there was to do physical therapy. As soon as I got there I would begin physical therapy with the kids and do things such as stretching, massaging, practicing walking/standing for some, and basic motor function for others. The kids would come into the physio-room in groups, each hour, on various days of the week. Myself and the Cambodian physical therapist, Sokah would each work with the children depending on their needs.

A volunteer in Cambodia through Projects Abroad

At noon, all the volunteers would go back to the apartment for lunch, which was cooked along with all other meals, by our Projects Abroad cook, Naid. We had a couple hours of free time before going back to the orphanage at 2:00 p.m. I would continue working with the kids the rest of the afternoon and would end my day at the orphanage at 4:00 p.m. My driver would once again take me back to the apartment, where I had the rest of the day to explore Phnom Pehn, Cambodia. Dinner was served at 7:00 p.m. and was a fun time to exchange experiences that happened to each of the volunteers that day.

What made this experience unique and special?

Chelsey: The best feeling I experienced while in Cambodia was the bond that formed with the children at my orphanage. Just seeing them smile every time I walked into the room made me feel like I was really making a difference in their happiness. Each of the children made some sort of improvement while I was there, and it truely made me so proud of them. I've never been as moved by a gesture of kindness than when the Cambodian physical therapist gave me a necklace before I left, out of appreciation for helping the kids. I knew that buying a necklace probably wasn't affordable for her, but she bought me one anyways. It will always be my most precious piece of jewelry.

Volunteer working with kids in Cambodia

While I was in Cambodia, the Projects Abroad staff really made it feel like we had our own community and made it so fun and comfortable for all the volunteers.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Chelsey: This trip has affected me in such great ways. I now know that giving and volunteering is my passion. Seeing other people happy is what truely gives me fullfillment in life. Working at the orphanage completely solidified my wanting to work with disabled children in the future. I am so grateful of Projects Abroad for making it an experience that has shaped my life better than I could have hoped for.