Cambodia: Personal reflections of a volunteer
I am grateful to have worked at HelpAge Cambodia for the past 20 months, it has been a privilege and a deeply meaningful experience.
With the support of the Australian Volunteers programme, my work involved giving training and support to staff on various areas.
These included reporting, monitoring and evaluation, human resources and policy engagement.
Importance of community
When meeting with the older people's associations members, I learnt a lot about the importance of hard work and resilience.
Sharing and caring within family and community ensures that people have companionship, food to eat and a place to sleep. Cambodians are so community focused that I even recall an occasion when I was invited to attend the wedding reception of a work colleague's sister who I had never met!
My experience at the Cambodia country office exposes the intricacies of working alongside development partners and key stakeholders when voicing the direct concerns of tens of thousands of older people in the Cambodian context. The work may be slow at times but the bigger picture successes make the dedication and efforts of this office of 20 staff worthwhile.
In the last two years, some of these successes include:
- decentralising certain operations,
- older people's associations taking part in national ageing policy consultation,
- approval of the local development funds proposed by 46 older people's associations,
- greater public awareness of older people's issues through social media.
Reconnecting with my Cambodian heritage
In 1983, my immediate family emigrated from Cambodia to Australia and I was born soon after. Having not known my own grandparents, I found volunteering to serve the needs and concerns of older women and men in Cambodia truly enjoyable.
I now have a greater awareness of my Cambodian heritage through interacting with this generation of Cambodian culture and history custodians.
The past 20 months have been deeply challenging and also very joyful. I am sorry to leave the Cambodian office, but I know I'll always be part of the HelpAge family.
Read more about volunteering in Cambodia.