Today is my last day in Cambodia. I made it. As I sit here in this cafe reminiscing I can’t help but become overwhelmed with all of the emotions I’ve experienced over these past four remarkable months. When I first landed in Phnom Penh, and got to my hotel, I was terrified. Way more terrified than I had expected to be. I was barely nervous on the flight, mostly excited but sure enough after my first night in the city I didn’t want to go outside on my own. Now, I can dodge traffic like a semi-pro and eat with a spoon like it’s my job.
So my journey, where to begin. Well I came to Cambodia recovering from a pretty rough summer. I barely knew who I was then, and was starting to loose sight of what I wanted. I was lost inside myself. Maybe it was the Buddhism and meditation, maybe it was making new friends or maybe it was just waking up everyday in a foreign place but after a while I started to rediscover the little things about life that make me passionate. I could appreciate sunsets and smiles again. I don’t know when this happened but being here has made me realize I’m too young, too alive, and too lucky to spend any extended amount of time being unhappy.
I have had some of the best four months of my life here, and no it’s not because I was always happy, or partying, or stuffing my face. Cambodia challenged me, pushed me about 9,000 miles away from my comfort zone, and exposed me to lifestyles that no human beings should have to live. But, because of all this, I grew. I danced in the middle of Siem Reap’s Pub Street by myself with not a care in the world, I have been chased by monkeys, driven to tears from criticism, meditated with monks, and laughed 1000x more than I cried.
Francine W. Service-Learning Semester in Cambodia
There is something quite beautiful about buying bananas and oranges from a smiling village mama that has her freshly harvested produce piled on a blanket by a dirt road. The Tanzanian sun is shining down on the meager selection of fruits that are far too blemished to be sold in an American grocery store. Somehow I knew I was going to appreciate and savor the orange I had just purchased more than I do the oranges I meticulously select from the massive piles of produce readily available State side.
In Tanzania, you eat what the rains provide. Each crop has a season and without easy access to water or refrigeration systems, food is available when nature relinquishes it from her soil. This means that there are seasons of hunger and malnutrition is widespread. Although the issue is daunting, volunteering with Global Service Corps has shown me that there are ways to make significant, sustainable steps towards establishing greater food security for people in Tanzania. GSC trainings in organic, water efficient agriculture have empowered village members to grow their own vegetables. And as we work together to create more sustainable food systems, I think, it helps everyone to appreciate and savor the food that is in front of them that much more.
Lilah T. Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Program, Tanzania
For more information on GSC’s Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Program in Tanzania, click here
I was impressed with the amount of information covered in the HIV/AIDS Education Program, and the inclusion of nutrition education which is a necessary component of HIV/AIDS education. The activities proved to be especially helpful in teaching the information. One game that still stands out in my mind is “Elephants & Lions” which was well received by every community I worked with. After conducting the HIV/AIDS Education training in Engalawoni, the villagers personally thanked us (the volunteers and counterparts) for the training session and stated that they were honored we came to their village to share knowledge with them. I was touched by their gratitude and felt that GSC’s program truly made a difference in their lives.
The two-week day camp proved to be an exceptional experience during my stay in Tanzania. Spending two-weeks with the students allowed time to establish relationships with the students and cover a vast amount of information. The school’s teachers encouraged our work and helped to answer general questions I had about Tanzania’s education system. I think the most fantastic part of the day camp was sharing this time with the students. We were not just teachers, we were role models there to share a very important message. The graduation ceremony at the end of camp was awesome! I think the students enjoyed performing for us just as much as we enjoyed watching.
Mary S., Tanzania Integrated Program
At this moment back at main camp as I reflect on this experience to write… it really seems like we just woke up from a dream. Wow! What a week. I know I could never get this kind of opportunity if I were just touring Thailand. The volunteer experience has been very rewarding and enlightening. Today I returned to Bangkok to catch my flight… Leaving the twin house which has been home base for 3 weeks was very difficult. We said our goodbyes to the volunteers that we came to know and to the coordinators and working staff at the twin house. We became like one big family and I know I would definitely hold the position of grandma amongst our group. One of the kitchen staff presented me with a beautiful green bracelet which she made. Most Thai people use the prayer hands position along with ‘korp khun kaa’ when they thank you. This lady put the bracelet on my wrist and I thought it would be followed by the above but instead she just gave me a big hug. That was special because it was not typical. This bracelet will remind me of how generous Thai people are. Tears were very close to the surface in this departure. The Thai people that we got to know were all there waving and smiling until our bus was out of sight. Their gentle smiles and gracious hospitality will always be remembered.
Bea E., Orphanage Care Program, Thailand
The Sustainable Agriculture Program at Global Service Corps allows participants to be trained in a variety of techniques relevant to the environmental challenges facing rural Tanzanians.
One of most rewarding techniques participants find learning about and educating about are sack gardens. Volunteer participants and GSC staff train families with limited space and resources on how to build gardens. Food is then grown horizontally as well as vertically to maximize amounts of harvestable food. These gardens take up relatively small amounts of space for the amount of food they produce. This provides families with a sustainable means of growing vegetables and improving their diets.
Global Service Corps works with vulnerable populations, particularly those suffering from HIV/AIDS. One volunteer noted on her recent visit, “One afternoon while staying in Monduli, a couple of staffers and I visited an older gentlemen who they’ve known since their first training in the village several years prior. He was so wonderful and so smart. His home was a prime example of Sustainable Agriculture technologies; it was incredible to see how they had changed his home. It was heartwarming seeing the staffers interact with him, the care they have for him and all the students they interact with.”
Allison M., Tanzania, HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Program
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed myself in Tanzania and that stems from the staff entirely, whom I felt incredibly comfortable with and still maintain communication with many of them. By the end I truly felt at home and wish that I had signed up for a much longer program. I do really wish that I had stayed enough to do follow ups with villages and would be interested to hear how they went and how others are doing. I think I enjoyed my experience just about as much as possible and was more than happy to help in any aspect of what was needed.
Brady C., Tanzania Integrated Program
Having now completed my volunteer assignment, I find I have developed a special place in my heart for Cambodia and its people. For anyone who has ever been to Cambodia, this is no surprise. The Cambodian people are unfailingly cheerful, warm and welcoming. Though it’s unlikely that I will ever return, for three weeks I had the honor and privilege of working with local people doing their best to give kids living in the worst slums of Phnom Penh a fighting chance to avoid child trafficking and to escape a deeply embedded cycle of poverty.
If my participation in a four-day health workshop made even a small difference in the lives of these children, then it was well worth the effort – for them and me. I know that I am much changed for the experience.
Doug H., Cambodia International Health Program