I’m a gap year student who lived in Cambodia for three months, volunteering in teaching. Without question, it changed my life. By chance, I was ill for a great chunk of my time there and suffered other misfortunes, but I could not let myself feel sorry for myself. Not when I knew that, just down the street, people could barely feed themselves and, by the time I left, the country was suffering a drought and electricity shortage. Through all my bad moments, Projects Abroad were there for me. When I messaged my coordinator late at night to ask to go the hospital the next morning, he got back to me immediately, and always made sure I had a member of staff I previously knew to accompany me to the many places I had to go in order to make myself better/sort things out. On days when the project was unexpectedly closed, they organised other activities for us, which allowed me to take part in the public health programme a couple of times, and experience an entirely different environment.
For the most part, people are lovely, and are always wanting to make new friends. Even if they only just met you, they are willing to take day trips with you, go away with you, and find it continuously fascinating that you grew up in a small farming village on the edge of nowhere, without a major highway for miles.
My best memories and my heart will always be at the school. The word used to describe them is ‘energetic’ and they are definitely that, but I fell in love with them all anyway. They are innocent individuals with a passion for learning, lots of respect, who love to connect with you and tell you the likes and hobbies they have. It was nothing short of beautiful learning all of their names and where each of their talents lied, especially when I could use these in my lessons. And I did play on what I knew of them often, just because I loved seeing their little faces when they recognised I’d listened to them. They are grateful for everything you give them, and give you the biggest hugs when you leave. Like I said, my heart will always be with them.