This installment of “Stories from the Field” features the experiences of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) Honors College 3-week group trip to Cambodia. It will be a 5 part series highlighting the meaningful work and experiences the students from UTC accomplished while volunteering in Cambodia with Global Service Corps.
Part 1: Welcome to Cambodia!
In May, 2016, GSC hosted a group of 7 students, along with 2 faculty members, from UTC on a 3-week service-learning trip to Cambodia. This was the first time GSC hosted a university honors group in Cambodia and was very pleased to have the opportunity. Normally, GSC volunteers spend their time on one or two of GSC’s five main Cambodia programs, but the UTC group wanted to experience as much as they could with one organization in their short time volunteering. In coordination with the UTC staff, GSC was able to plan a full schedule for the group.
The students arrived in Phnom Penh Saturday night. They were all tired from their travels, (it takes approximately 19 hours to fly to Phnom Penh from Tennessee!) but they were excited to be in Cambodia and eagerly awaiting to begin their service-learning experience. The first day they had free time to relax, get over any jet lag, adjust to the new environment, and explore the surrounding areas around the hotel. The extra day to adjust came in handy because the next day was a busy one.
The next day the students began the normal GSC Cambodia in-country orientation as the GSC In-Country Coordinator, Sophak Touch, led them around cultural sites in Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. They visited the Royal Palace, Independence Monument, Wat Phnom National Museum, and Tuol Sleng. Despite the hot weather, the students had a great time exploring and learning about Cambodia’s history and rich culture.
The students continued their in-country orientation and training the next two days. This consisted of basic Khmer language lessons, a review of volunteer expectations, an overview of their service-learning projects, and important cultural information. Cambodia is a very different country than most western countries so orientation is a vital part of the service-learning experience.
After orientation, the students visited the homestay they would be staying in while working at Youth for Peace, one of GSC’s partner organizations for the Community Development and Youth Leadership Training Program. Getting to see the homestay in advance helped alleviate some of the nerves the group was feeling (it’s always a little nerve racking visiting a completely new place for the first time). After the homestay visit the students attended a Child Safe presentation put on by Friend’s International. Child Safe is a global child protection system established and powered by Friends-International. Child Safe seeks to protect children and youth from all forms of abuse, prevent children and youth from engaging in dangerous behaviors, and influence all tiers of society and the international community so they can create positive environments for children and youth. If you would like to learn more about Child Safe and Friends International, click here.
Due to the unfortunate practice of orphanage tourism (which GSC does not support and is in no way involved in), Child Safe’s presentations come off as anti-orphanage. The students knew they would be visiting an orphanage the next day so it was an interesting and thought provoking experience for them to be introduced to the complex issues of orphanage care in Cambodia.
Remember this is just Part One of the series. Check back tomorrow for Part Two!