SMV Experience in Cambodia
Cebu, the Philippines, 20 July 2018 -- We are sharing the experiences and learning of our young volunteers Marga, Karen and Christine who went for a one-month volunteering in Cambodia. Surely, their valuable contributions will help enrich the Salesian missions.
By Margarita Rio V. Diongzon
My journey started last February 13, 2018 as one of the four volunteers sent by the FIS Province to Don Bosco Technical School, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
"It feels like home", I whispered to myself as soon as I stooped down my feet in Cambodia. I effortlessly adapted some of their values, beautiful culture and the unique taste of their food. I wouldn't have made it without the help of the Salesians, boarders, teachers, Besucco boys and my fellow volunteers who had been with me and made me feel that I am not totally a stranger. Hence, they all treated me as a family member.
For a month being with them, I genuinely felt the sincerity and eagerness of each individual inside the community to learn. It was very fulfilling for me to help the teachers, boarders and other people there who were very interested to learn English. The local people were very warm and the children were very respectful.
It was a bumpy ride during the first days of my volunteer work. I encountered many obstacles, expectations, a lot of pressure, anxieties and self-doubts that sometimes overshadowed me and lessened my self-esteem but through my faith, tough determination and a very good support system I managed to get through it. Every time I look at the children, boarders and teachers, I was reminded again of the reason why I am in Cambodia and why I volunteered.
The simple way of living in Cambodia made me appreciate all the smallest things that life has to offer and be grateful for what I have. The spontaneous saying of "Thank you so much, Teacher" from the children, boarders and teachers and the brightest smile they gave made me feel at ease and fulfilled. Those little things occupied the biggest part of my heart.
Even though I stayed for a very short amount of time, I've learned that some lessons can't be taught and not all classrooms have four walls.
By Karen J. Castigador
The summer of 2018 in the Philippines has been my most anticipated summer for I know I would be doing something I have not done in my life yet. Upon hearing the invitation of volunteering in Cambodia, I was unsure of whether I felt fear or excitement.
I have heard people talk about the benefits of volunteering - a way to touch the lives of others. But I didn't fully grasp the impact of the idea until I started volunteering myself. And this decision changed my life forever.
In my short stay as a volunteer , I met people whom I never thought would become very important to me. Most of them were the boys whom we tutored in the Besucco house. They came from low-income families whose could not afford to send them to school. I had the chance to help them with their homework, talk to them and develop a bond with them.
The more I worked with them the more I realized I have learned to love them. Many of them didn't have the chance to learn English. Because I knew that I and other volunteer were licensed in the field, we decided to accept the privilege of helping them.
Little did I know that while I was teaching them the basics of English, they too, are teaching me things. Every time a child got scared of failing, every time a child got frustrated, it taught me patience. Every time they share a part of their stories and hold on to me, it taught me that they somehow depended on me, that I have somehow become a part of their lives. And in every single time they accomplish even the simplest tasks, it gave me a sense of accomplishment for myself. But among all these, they taught me one most important thing: to give.
I would always remember what Fr. MC George once told us, "When you volunteer, whether it be for a year, six months or even a month, you give a part of your life to people. You'll be amazed at how much you'll gain from them than how much they'll gain from you.", and I have been a witness to that.
I can say that volunteering my time to teach English was one of the best things I have done in my existence. My experience taught me that money shouldn't be my motivation for working, and that motivation for me is knowing that I have reached out and touched the lives of people in a positive way.
Furthermore, I learned to be part of the community life from the Salesians and that they have schedules to follow each day and ensure that their presence through the brother assistants among the youth are constantly felt and seen. Culturally, I was able to observe Cambodians’ great love for their families. They always put their families as their top priority.
This month long experience widened my view of the world and of people. I may not be able to point it out, but I know something in me changed. And I may not know when, but this definitely won't be my last. I am looking forward to more of these life-changing experiences in the future.
By Christine L. Umpad
My month-long volunteering experience in Don Bosco Technical School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is quite short, but very worthwhile for I learned a lot. The Salesian priests and brothers have taught me the value of an individual’s presence to others.
That, the best gift you can offer others is your time – be with them! Despite the hectic schedule brought by their work, they see to it that they could still sit, play or talk with the students, which is the essence of being a Salesian. Also, during our chitchats I was able to learn and understand the culture and a little of Cambodia’s history, which to me are very helpful in knowing the Cambodians especially the students. Being with the students was indeed a grateful experience! They are very warm with us. I’ll never forget the endless times when they were very patient in teaching me the basic steps in dancing. To add, are the moments when they taught me Khmer words and expressions that I hardly could speak and remember. I couldn’t thank them enough for the friendship and the time spent together. In a month, I never thought of meeting such a number of people with good hearts, and that includes the Besucco boys. Sokhen, Pheak, Chetra, Borey and Sophanara are the boys that were assigned to be our tutee. It was honestly a bit challenging task but it was fulfilling. They genuinely showed me the happiness in living simply. Listening to their life dreams is really inspiring – for they believed that difficulties couldn’t hinder them in reaching their goals.
Volunteering, in a foreign land, required me to be flexible in different situations. The Khmer food taste and the language barrier were some of the challenges I was exposed to. For me, it was easier to adapt with their food taste than to memorize basic words and expressions. But if given a chance to stay longer, maybe I will be more familiar with of Khmer words and expressions. But these challenges had taught be to be more adaptable, sensitive and understanding with the other people’s culture.
The whole is experience is something I will truly treasure! Growing up in a Salesian center, particularly in Don Bosco-Pasil, Cebu City, I received a lot of formations back then. I was glad that I was given this opportunity to share what I have learned to others especially to the youth. With this, is my promise to continue being a Salesian Lay Volunteer. If given another chance, I still am willing to do another volunteering works, but for a longer duration. In volunteering you don’t just share, you gain priceless things such as experience, knowledge and friends. For the more you give yourself to others, the more you will learn and value yourself.