My 1st Overseas Volunteer at Cambodia

I’m back, after a 5-month hiatus, but I hardly update this blog of mine anyway. A lot have happened during these 5 months, and this included 2 tick-offs from my bucket list – my 1st Overseas Volunteer Program at Cambodia and visiting Angkor Wat in October 2019.

To be very honest, I just want to step out of SG even for a short while, and hence when I came upon an old existing email thread I enquired previously with Operation Hope Foundation (OHF), I thought to myself why not and there it is, my 26th birthday present. A rewarding & meaningful experience, and my virgin visit to Cambodia.

A quick introduction of OHF – It is a registered Singapore Charity established in 2001, and operates mainly in Nepal and Cambodia, with headquarters in Singapore. They have 4 core programmes – OHF Community, OHF Skills, OHF Child & OHF Volunteer. Do check out here if you like to find out more information.

Before the trip –

This Build A House Project (24th – 27th Oct) was participated by an Open Team, which mean anyone can joins in, so long as it hit the minimum number of 10 registrations. After much prayers and anticipation, Jason from OHF confirmed we have met the minimum requirement (16 strong ladies in fact) and off I booked my flight tickets with Silk Air.

As there was still some time away to the trip, I wanted to do something more to help the children. Decided to come up with a fundraising campaign, and together with all the donors, we raised a total of $3370!! Thanks to all the donors, and with the assistance from OHF local Cambodian staff (oh yes they are based in Cambodia too), we supported:

  1. 200 pairs of slippers &
  2. 200 wheat fibre eco-friendly bottles filled with milo for the kids
  3. 25 food packs for families whom are at poverty level 1 & 2*
  4. 2-months worth of electricity bills for HTC

* 1 food pack consists: 1 x 50kg Rice, 1 x 1L Cooking Oil (vegetable), 1 x1 kg Sugar, 1 x1 kg Salt, 2x bottle of fish sauce, 2x bottle of soya sauce, 6x Can of Sardine

fundraising campaign
Source: https://gogetfunding.com/fundraising-for-build-a-house-project/

Isn’t it amazing? That every small little help added up and went a long way. Really thankful and appreciative to all the donors for helping the kids and making this fundraising campaign a well-deserved one!

About 2 weeks left to the trip, we had a pre-trip briefing session at OHF office, located at Tanglin International Centre. During this briefing, Jason shared with us more about OHF and various topics like what to expect, our 4-days itinerary, packing list etc.

La, a local Cambodian OHF staff was our main team coordinator during the trip and this time round, we built a house for Srey Lang and her 3 years old son, Vorn Peavath. Srey Lang’s husband ran away without informing them, and they are left to fend for themselves. Srey Lang often looks around for job, and could earns about 5000 – 10000 riel/day, approximately $0.90 – $1.50/day. They are located at Anhchan Village, Prey Veng, approximately 2 hours drive away from Phnom Penh.

house
Where Srey Lang & her son stayed previously – credits from OHF pre-trip briefing ppt

& finally, the actual trip!

During the 1st day, we toured around AEOM Mall Sen Sok City before making our way to Hope Training Centre (HTC), where we will be dining and staying for the next 3 nights. It was already dark at night when we reached. After our dinner, we went to our respective dormitories, washed up and getting to know one another. My mates and I gave up on setting up the mosquito net, as 1) it was too stuffy and 2) despite a number of insects around, generally the interior of the dorm is quite clean, and we did not have any mosquitoes bites.

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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

The next day, we had our breakfast and toured around HTC before departing our way to the house building site. It was about an hour journey, and the van were filled with chatty conversations while enjoying the view. We were greeted by this scene upon arrival, where the base and foundation of the house was already pre-built by OHF project staff.

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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

Shortly after, we split into two teams – one team in charge of floor, while the other team in charge of the exterior walls. We began the real work for a few hours before our lunch break. Personally it was not as tough as I expected but it was not easy as well. Despite the scorching sun there, the humidity in SG was more unforgivable. What was harder was holding a hammer for a prolonged period, and missing the steel nails and hammered my thumb instead. By lunch time, we were all covered with sweat and sawdust.

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1st team helping out with the wooden floor
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2nd team helping out with the wooden wall. It was during this period when I decided to climb up and assisted with the upper wall, but gave up shortly and continued with the lower wall instead. The fear of heights was real, and the disappointment was strong then etc.  – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

After lunch, we were recharged, and completed our tasks for that day within the next 1.5 – 2 hours. We wouldn’t have done it so fast if not for the help of OHF project staff too. While I hammered one nail, they would have done probably 4-5 nails already!

We went back to HTC for a quick shower, proceeded on to our next itinerary and visited Prey Veng Market, Hope Village Orphanage as well as an air-conditioned spacious looking cafe (heaven!).

Hope Village Prey Veng Orphanage by OHF provides poor orphans and abandoned children with a home that is safe, enriching and loving. As we walked around the premises, children was waving happily to us, playing happily among themselves. Some were rollerblading, others skateboarding – all equipment donated by kind souls and organisations around the world.

ohf home
Credits from Smart Local (https://thesmartlocal.com/read/overseas-volunteering-cambodia/)
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A relaxation time at Daily Coffee Shop together with my newly-found friends – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

By dinner time, we grew more closer after spending a day with one another. One memorable experience was playing Charades at our dormitory, and exchanging personal stories and experiences. You could heard the laughter in all 3 dormitories.

During the 3rd day, we went back to the site and continued building the house. This time round we were split into 3 teams – continuation with the building of wall, painting of house exterior and preparation for the food pack/slippers/milo/goodie bags distribution.

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Painting of house – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Continuing to finish up the back wall – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

After we were done with the house, we joined the rest to help out with the final task of this volunteering project, the distribution. By then the whole village had gathered together, families and kids waiting eagerly for their sponsored items. It was a bustling scene.

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Milo from the milo godmother – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

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After our lunch and all the preparation were completed, we first witnessed the signing ceremony of handover report by the Village Head and La. This is to ensure the house belonged to Srey Lang and no one could claim otherwise.

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Signing ceremony & handover – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

And finally the moment where everyone is waiting for.

La was the emcee host of the distribution. He called out the kids’ names one by one, and each kid was given a goodie bag, slipper and a bottle filled with milo. Their facial expressions were priceless, and they thanked us sincerely. It brought tears to my eyes when I witnessed this – how we taken all this for granted back in SG, so fortunate and blessed.

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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

We then moved on to the food pack distribution and ended off with a thankful speech session by Village Head and others.

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Srey Lang thanking all the volunteers – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Food pack distribution – – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

After the distribution, we were all feeling tired and lazy to head back for a shower. We visited a waterfall attraction overseeing a casino and Vietnam borders nearby, checked out the sunset before heading back to Daily Coffee Shop upon our request again! We then decided to do one more good deed by donating our dinner to the Orphanage, and went to a local restaurant recommended by La.

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Waterfall – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Beautiful sunset – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team
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Our last dinner together – Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

That night we knocked out early, and on the 4th day, we made our way back to Phnom Penh after breakfast. Some of us were dropped off at Central Market to continue with our own itineraries, others headed back to SG. As for me, I toured around Central Market & a local cafe with Dayna and her mom, before continuing with my solo plans.

Thoughts after the trip

It was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences I had throughout my entire life, and one of the main reasons were doing this together with OHF and 15 ladies. Despite joining this alone, I was able to click with this group. The arrangements done by OHF was well-planned and executed. It has also broaden my perspective. If you are considering this, please definitely go ahead! Hope you enjoyed reading it despite the long post! 🙂

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Credits from OHF Nov Open Team

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