Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Freddie: I get a motor taxi from the volunteer house to one of the schools at Child Action for Development (CAD) and start teaching at nine-thirty. In the first half an hour I teach life skills sessions through different activities, through singing songs, acting or drawing posters. The topics I teach include first aid, healthy eating, protecting the environment or personal hygiene.
After that I teach English for an hour, usually with the help of a translator. Sometimes I start off the lessons by introducing new vocabulary and get them to repeat words off the board. For most of the lesson I choose a basic topic that I want to teach them. Towards the end of the lesson I revise this by playing hangman, as it’s a game they really enjoy and get the class to sing songs in English afterwards. I stay at the school and often help out with anything that needs doing at the school.
After lunch I teach an hour of English to a different class and head to the field to coach sport for an hour. We split the kids up into groups so that they can do different drills and matches. The taxi driver gives me a lift back to the volunteer house at about five-thirty for dinner.
Ten years from now, what's the one thing you think you'll remember from the trip?
Freddie: That’s such a hard question because there have been so many wonderful moments. I think swimming with bioluminescent plankton at night on Rabbit Island was pretty special and the volunteer trip to Phnom Penh during the water festival created a lot of memories because of the people I was with. Sadly, I’ll always remember how shocking the Khmer rouge was when I think about S21 and the killing fields.
But, how can I forget about Angkor Wat. We were only at the temples for a day but I’ll still remember how fun it was to explore Ta Prohm where they filmed Tomb Raider. It’s definitely been a trip to remember and I hope future volunteers enjoy it as much as I have, as the kids are a pleasure to teach as well.
The other week a couple of girls came up to me and asked if I could stay in Cambodia forever, which made me realise how much of an influence I’ve been here. To be honest – I don’t want to leave! At the same time I feel very proud to have developed the afterschool sports club from scratch. It’s been a privilege to coach and play with youngsters that have such a wild enthusiasm for football (soccer). Helping take part in the kids’ football tournament also showed how far this project has come along. I always enjoy playing sport, although my contribution to this community is something I’ll always be proud of.
Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?
Freddie: Without a doubt my perception has changed. When I think of life back home I realise how spoilt we are. I feel very grateful to have safe shelter, clean water and enough food. This trip has been a real eye-opener into what it’s like living in a third world country with poverty all around. We see it on the news everyday back home but it’s not until you come out here that you begin to understand what it’s truly like.
The world is full of amazing people and opportunities so it’s difficult to see why it’s still a huge problem and that it’s potentially getting worse. From exploring the city I’ve noticed how Khmer people are very thankful for what they do have. It was lovely to see locals spending time with their friends and family. That’s one of the lessons I’ll take back with me.
What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?
Freddie: I’d say the relationship between girlfriend and boyfriend over here. Compared to the western world it’s a little strange how it all works. A couple of the translators at the volunteer house are going out with each other and they met around 4 months ago. They are now getting married in 2016, which is nice to hear. Apparently the woman had to find out more about the boy for a couple of months before deciding that she wanted to be with him for the rest of her life. It’s all quite sudden.
The weddings also start at five-thirty in the morning with extremely loud music lasting for two days. Somehow there have been three of them outside the volunteer house whilst I’ve been here. Unfortunately I wasn’t invited but it was a great spectacle to watch. It’s also worth adding that, even though there’s equality between men and women, girls can be very shy and don’t open up to a relationship until they’ve met a person who will be part of the family. It was very cool to learn about this part of the culture.
Where would you most like to travel to next?
Freddie: After this project in Cambodia I’m heading to India and Nepal for some more volunteer work, which will be very exciting. I’m really looking forward to visiting those countries because they’ve interested me for many years. When I studied geography at school I dreamt about travelling the world, although there’s a difference between actually getting out there and just looking at a world map and thinking about the endless possibilities. Unfortunately I’ve been bitten by the travel bug quite badly which means there’s a few more countries on that list.
I’ve seen amazing volunteer programmes on the internet in Brazil and South Africa for conservation, teaching and sports coaching so I think volunteering will be a big part of my life as well as travelling. On the other hand, I’ve met a lot of people who have mentioned how wonderful Peru is so I’m not completely sure. The university I have a place with next year run a trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and that’s something I’d definitely like to do. The place I’d most like to travel to though would probably be Cape Town in South Africa. It’s got a very beautiful landscape and vibrant culture. Plus, the prospect of swimming with sharks is also very appealing.