After 4 exhilarating weeks in Phnom Penh, I completed Projects Abroad's Human Rights project. I was 22 and I was a fresh graduate from university. I completed a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and History, indicating my natural gravitation towards participating in a Human Rights project. My interest in participating in this volunteer project also heightened as I learn more about the country of Cambodia prior to my journey there: the mysterious landscapes and dark history that the country is built upon. I have a strong passion for travelling and I was fortunate enough to learn more about distant places, its histories and political landscapes throughout my academic career. Let me also preamble that I am also simultaneously pursuing a career in law and was hoping that I could gain quantitative and qualitative legal experience in my volunteer endeavor.
Preparing to embark on my volunteer project, I had a ton of help from the Projects Abroad staff, who consistently kept in touch via phone and email, and also a friend of mine who recently completed a Projects Abroad project in South America. The Projects Abroad website provided me with a personal webpage of my own that contains all instructions relating to my upcoming travel to Cambodia. It is organized by a timeline of before, during and after your project. This layout extremely helped me in keeping myself organized before I travel, as well as the smooth arrival that I experienced when I landed in Phnom Penh.
I worked for a Cambodian NGO, the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), that seeks to advocate for human and housing rights in Cambodia. Cambodia, as a country, offers many learning experiences starting from its diverse history all the way to its culture and modern identity. Until today, I still look back on my 4-week experience working side-by-side with justice workers, human rights defenders and legal officers and I remain in awe. My work mainly consisted of researching and writing numerous case studies. The research component was what I found the most exhilarating. I had an opportunity to look closely into Cambodian and internationally-binding laws, mainly targeting human rights and housing law aspects. I was also very fortunate to experience most of my research on the field: I witnessed and observed numerous human rights protests, housing developments, political meetings and human rights trials. HRTF also actively participated in meeting and collaborating with other local and international NGOs that provided me with a whole new system to work with and be a part of.
I was also very fortunate to call a place ‘home’ during my stay in Phnom Penh. I lived in a project Abroad volunteers’ apartment in the heart of the city and was surrounded by people who helped me feel at home, fed me amazing local dishes and made sure I was driven to work and brought home safe every day. The people I lived with came from different parts of the world and have become very close friends of mine. Volunteering abroad was improved a hundred-fold when my experiences turned into friendships and life-long memories.
I highly recommend Project Abroad’s Human Rights project in Cambodia for various reasons, most of which are outlined in my review. It helped me shape my understanding of the world, its realities and also its wonders.