Young Sheffield woman shares eye-opening volunteering experience in Cambodia

Matilda Moulam spent 10 weeks on a voluntary adventure in Cambodia and is hoping other Sheffielders will follow in her footsteps.

By Gita Juniku
Monday, 29 July, 2019, 09:40
Matilda's team creating a bin out of plastic bottles.

The 24-year-old said the programme helps young British people to enable them to develop their skills in a foreign and rewarding environment whilst giving impoverished communities the tools to continue developing after the volunteers leave.

Matilda said: “I had a really, really good experience because you live with a host family and a Cambodian counterpart.

“As we were working with the community, we don’t speak Khmer. It was interesting trying to communicate daily things with no language but my host family was really nice and welcoming. I was settled immediately.”

Matilda's team as the first Cycle of volunteers, celebrating International Women's Day

Matilda said that because her team was the first cycle of volunteers to come into the community work, it was hard to see the impact straight away. However, they did help build a new football pitch for a local school.

The group took basic building materials to the school and students assigned themselves roles for building it.

“The next week we came back and they were hosting their first home football match," Matilda said. "Two girls' teams lined up in their football kit - before they were not able to host a home game, now they had a new pitch they were able to host a home game against another local school.

“That was a cool thing to see for us because we were like, ‘We did that'."

Matilda Moulam with her host family in Cambodia

Matilda said International Citizens Service (ICS) helped volunteers develop themselves as individuals through learning and teaching. One of the things they had to learn about were Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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On a weekly basis, Matilda and her fellow volunteers chose one of the UN goals to research, learn in-depth and then present to each other.

These goals are objectives that the UN set to be achieved by 2030. They range from ending poverty and ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, to quality education and good infrastructure.

Matilda says that this is something that ICS do to develop the volunteers to be more active citizens, teaching them about the little things they can continue after they come back to the UK.

“They were things that I didn’t even know about but they are so important.

“I think it’s important to raise awareness about the goals so that people can know that they need to be helping towards that. There are so many little things that people can do, right up to writing to your local MPs,” said Matilda.

“Whilst it is undeniably rewarding to see that you are making a positive impact to a community, you are also able to build on your own skills and experience, including working cross-culturally, as well as spend time immersed in a whole other country and culture which is so exciting and enjoyable."

Matilda said that she would encourage other young people to get involved with ICS because volunteers get out of it as much as they put in.

“There are so many charities, good causes and volunteer organisations all around the world, including in our local area, that it can be overwhelming to pick who you want to give your time to.

“I therefore hope that from reading this you are inspired by my experience and can trust that the efficacy, professionalism and strong focus on responsible volunteering shown by ICS is something worthwhile giving your time to," she said.