Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with CCPP in Cambodia?
Lara: I decided to volunteer in Cambodia because my friend suggested it! It was a really easy decision as the country has so much history and is so beautiful. It was an amazing cause too which made it a lot easier to save for!
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Lara: The day is divided into shifts with the first starting at 8am and the last finishing at 7pm. They're things like teaching classes (English and Art), working in the gallery selling the paintings and also general hard work! One shift is "workshop" this is the hardest one! A bit of heavy lifting or cutting new boards to paint on etc. You really feel like you get to know the children, even through the language barrier. On Saturdays, the volunteers and the kids all pile into the van and have a few hours at the beach. The kids love it and just want to play with you all the time. You really feel like you're making a child happy. Dinner with all the volunteers and teachers, a big night out (if you didn't have to get up at 7am!) or just relaxing on the beach.
There's a local cinema called TOP CAT and it's brilliant for something different. They have any film you want and if you have enough people you can rent out the big room, full of squishy chairs and air conditioning! The smaller rooms are the same but not quite as big a screen, of course.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
Lara: All the volunteers live together in a house and it's so much fun. There's a shared kitchen (most of didn't use because it's cheaper to eat out!), a tv room and the hotel next door shares the front door patio with us so that's where you'd find most of us between shifts. We'd all meet there and go down to the beach for dinner together every night.
It's not even just the volunteers that you really bond with. After 3 days of being there, everyone was invited to the wedding of one of the teachers. It was such an amazing experience to be included in a local wedding and to see different cultures at their happiest time. Truly brilliant evening. It really is such a family, eating, living, and working together each and every day seems like there could be tensions, but each person that came to CCPP was amazing and it was so easy for everyone to get a long. So many of us have stayed in contact long after the trip, and I have seen so many of the girls that were there from all over the world. It may seem cliche but you miss the children, the friends and the country as soon as you leave. A little piece of me stayed in Cambodia.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Lara: It has made me so much more appreciative of all that I have. The warm water, the education, the healthcare that we have available to us that we don't even notice most days. That's why CCPP is such a good cause. They educate the children and as oral hygiene isn't much of a priority with the poorer families, CCPP take the children to the dentists and provide them with toothbrushes after meal times. They keep them off the beaches and keep them safe. I now regularly donate and recently, many of the volunteers raised money to send one of the teachers, Sengkea, to Australia for education and experience. It was something she would never have managed on her own and it was a great thing to see all of her photos. I have also been looking into finding some time hopefully do some volunteering in the UK while I'm still here! I plan to travel again in another year or so and CCPP and Sihanoukville will be top of my list!