Many of my favorite memories of travel are actually those moments where the line between traveling and living in a place began to blur; the moments where you realize you’re beginning to form close relationships with people and the place, rather than just passing through anonymously.
If I had to choose one standout travel memory – not a favorite memory per se but a formative one – it would be arriving in Cambodia to volunteer abroad for the first time, during my gap year almost a decade ago. I remember the excitement and sense of adventure I felt at the time, as well as what I now realize to be the problematic ideas I had about my place in the community and the 'help' I thought I could give.
It is interesting to think back on that moment, in light of how quickly my preconceptions began to crumble in the following weeks, days and months, giving way to the more complicated and often uncomfortable, but ultimately much more fulfilling, journey I’m still on.
As an Anthropology student, you’re encouraged to ask questions – that’s what I loved about it – but I often felt the itch to start putting it into action. However, when it came time to put what I learnt in the classroom into action, I was disappointed to find that most organizations wanted me to leave my questions at the door and just get it done, with little room for reflection or conversation.
By contrast, Omprakash is an organization that encourages continuous questioning – and therefore continuous learning and growth – not only in its students, but also amongst its many Partners, and within the admin team.
This has allowed me to begin to explore what happens when thoughtful action, radical questioning, and open dialogue come together. It has taught me to embrace complexity, rather than trying to sift through and try to distil it. It has encouraged me to keep asking more questions, even when I feel I’ve found the answer.
My work with Omprakash over the past few years has allowed me to grow personally, as well as professionally. Working at Omprakash is not just a job – it’s an all-encompassing project, that is as much a spiritual, intellectual, and communal endeavor as it is an occupation.