I have just returned from volunteering in Cambodia with a university group.
The fundraising was not easy, as most people are not fans of young people volunteering abroad. Our team raised £54,000 so we were really excited to see our money make a big difference – but we were let down.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a learning experience we will never forget. One project was helping out a Children Action Development.
We taught and played games. They were so well- mannered. Upon seeing us they would stand and greet us with their hands together. The first time they did that, I was confused as to why they carried on standing and smiling at me until I realised I had to tell them to sit down. It’s quite sad how such respect to teachers is not instilled here.
The children were extremely grateful for our presence and it just made me tear up knowing despite them being smart, they were going to work in rice fields. We drove past their stilt shacks and they wore the same clothes for a week.
They were just full of life despite their harsh backgrounds. I felt really disappointed that all our fundraised money was not making much of a difference. We felt the projects were organised in a way where it benefited our sense of fulfilment more than it would to the people we were helping.
Our other project made me feel worse. Monks live on donations from the public as they cannot work. We built an allotment and a flight of stairs which led them to a pond so they could wash and bathe. The monks are treated like royalty, poor people sacrifice so the monks live comfortably.
I would have happily done this if it was for a cause like an orphanage.
So where did the money go?
The experience was rewarding when it came to the children but only if our £54,000 made a massive difference to them.
I will be going back there to volunteer but through a charity such as Save The Children or Oxfam and I suggest anyone thinking of doing this to do the same.
I would avoid companies that organise group volunteering trips with enormous targets and cash that seems to go nowhere – just like it did on our trip.