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Jessica Parry-Okeden - Care & Community in Cambodia Short-term Special

A group of young volunteers at their kindergarten placement

It was a couple months before those long anticipated summer holidays and I did not have many exciting plans to look forward to. One day, I checked my school email and saw an email from my school service coordinator about possible high school volunteer trips with Projects Abroad. I was very intrigued as I had done a little bit of volunteering in the past, but I knew I wanted to definitely do some more.

I spent hours on the Projects Abroad website looking at all the various trips and got more and more excited about all the trips possible for me to complete. My friend Kristie and I eagerly convinced our parents to let us go on the Care & Community high school trip in Cambodia and it was the best decision I ever made. I wanted to do something special and life changing before I began the big hard year of completing year 12.

A volunteer spends time with a Cambodian child

I did not know much about Cambodia. I knew it would be something I had never experienced before. Projects Abroad offered everything I wanted in a volunteer trip. They had the right amount of time allocated for us to work at the project and also left us time to explore and see the amazing country that Cambodia is.

When the exciting time came to depart for Phnom Penh, I was very nervous to meet the other people who I would be experiencing the next two weeks with. However, I was excited at the possibility to make different friends from all over the world.

Arriving in Cambodia

Sightseeing over the weekend in Cambodia

Once I arrived in Phnom Penh, I was greeted by a friendly Projects Abroad staff member who was very helpful and assisted me straight away in buying a sim card so I could contact my family. We then went back to the hotel where we all stayed for the majority of the next two weeks.

The Hang Neak Hotel had everything we needed for our short stay. It had a comfortable bed with the all-too important air conditioning and a great hot and cold shower. Every morning, we would have a lovely meal on the rooftop restaurant where we had a great view of Phnom Penh. The staff were very friendly and it was a lovely hotel to come back to at the end of a tiring day at the placement.

My placement

Volunteers take a picture together in Cambodia

Whilst in Cambodia we spent most of the time at our lovely placement. Our placement was a preschool with about 30 kids from the ages of 3-6 years old, located about 40 minutes outside Phnom Penh. They had two main teachers that were there every day, who were extremely friendly and welcoming to us.

At the placement, we taught kids basic English such as numbers, built a fence for the outside of the preschool, and decorated the walls with English words and images. It was extremely fulfilling and exciting to get to know the kids despite the language barrier, which I thought would be a bigger issue than it was. We also assisted the teachers with making and serving the kids’ lunch and teaching them basic listening skills.

I loved spending time at the placement and it was great to get to know the teachers and all the students. Also, to see the impact we had on them over the two weeks with their English improving and the childcare centre looking a lot more decorated.

Overall, I had an amazing and life changing experience in Cambodia. I got to meet people from all over the world and discovered the amazing culture and people that live in Cambodia. I couldn’t be more grateful to Projects Abroad who made me feel so comfortable being so far away from home and for making the trip run so smoothly.

Jessica Parry-Okeden

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