Raksmey: As IVHQ's partner organization in Cambodia, we look after volunteers who choose to volunteer in Cambodia and organize placements for them according to their program registration. We provide them with food and accommodation in a volunteer house or with a host family in the cities and provinces where our projects operate.
What inspired you to start CVF and partner with IVHQ?
Raksmey: We personally think that volunteerism can help us to improve our country and people. Through volunteerism, the Cambodian people can learn from international people and they can share knowledge and experiences with each other. We can share our culture with the world through volunteers who share their experiences with their family and friends back home.
What do you enjoy most in your role?
Raksmey: The orientation, as I can provide all the important information to volunteers about Cambodia. I enjoy meeting with volunteers, listening to their problems and advising them with solutions. I also have fun helping volunteers organize weekend trips to other places in Cambodia.
What should every volunteer considering volunteering in Cambodia know?
Raksmey: Volunteers should learn about the Cambodian culture and local customs before traveling here. It is also important volunteers are aware of the orphanage business in Cambodia, where some people raise children in orphanages and use them to get money from tourists or foreigners. We advise all volunteers to avoid giving money to children on the street and we tell them that if they have watched the film Slum Dog Millionaire - it is no different! All volunteers in Cambodia should not miss visiting the Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, as it is a very famous temple, known throughout the world.
What is your favorite story of an IVHQ volunteer's experience in Cambodia?
Raksmey: There are many stories, but I will pick one of them which I can remember the most. We have a placement called Cambodia Independent Anti-Corruption Committee/Human Rights Organization for Transparency and Peace (CIACC/HROTP). One volunteer we had placed to work with CIACC/HROTP visited a rural area where the villagers had land issues. The village is very remote and the villagers do not have land to grow rice because their land was taken by private companies as a land concession. And they live in very, very poor conditions, not even in a proper house. The villagers survive on little pay, working as grass cleaners in a rubber plantation farm. Some girls in the village are forced to leave their homes and look for jobs in the cities. Most of them decide to work in Malaysia as housemaids. However, many of the girls become lost. Our volunteer tried to help a family to look for their daughter and they found her through the placement with which the volunteer worked.
At the same time, there was a family whose house collapsed due to a storm and the husband had a very, very bad injury and became paralyzed. We visited the family many times, interviewed them, and at the end, our volunteers raised funds to build a new house for them and our organization kept helping them. We donated a water well, as the family did not have clean water. CIACC/HROTP saved their children and took them to live in their shelter after the father died.
What tips/insights do you have for first-time volunteers abroad?
Raksmey: Volunteers should know about the cultures of the countries they are traveling to and take precautions to keep safe during their time abroad. Every country has their own culture. Every country can have safety problems, however we can avoid bad things happening to us if we are careful and learn how to take care of ourselves while we are abroad.