Traveling to Cambodia for two consecutive summers has given me the opportunity to really experience the people and culture of the country in a deeper way. In year one, I was a complete stranger and tourist — mouth agape, eyes bugging out, soaking in as much as possible while trying to get a sense of the enormity of difference and similarity.
Going back the second year, it was like going back to a place I love, especially on the island of Koh Preah where the friends I’d made in 2013 welcomed me back with open hearts and warm embraces. I felt the sense of going to a home that is just becoming mine.
SStS has grown roots in this community in a way that no other NGO that connects with them has been able to do, according to the guide who has brought groups there for the past three summers. Tola, from CRDT credits the deep connection of SStS to the people in the village with a lot of the success their emerging ecotourism business.
I will be honored beyond words if I have the chance to return there again.
“Today we left Cusco and traveled to Munaychay where we met the children. We arrived a little before the children were let out of school. We were pleasantly surprised by the impressive facilities and the beautiful vista. When the children arrived, we were swarmed by their excitement and affection. Everyone was quickly exhausted after playing a myriad of games with the plethora of children. A favorite of all was an activity consisting of running, laughing, tickling, and yelling. We all wanted to sleep by 6 o clock but were also very ready for our next day of work…”
-Rowan May ’16
Project Woo is a unique NGO that challenged our ideas of volunteering abroad. We arrived, work gloves in hand, ready to help build a school and volunteer at a community health center. When the project work was delayed, so was our ambition to feel like we’d made a difference in the village. Lisa challenged us to consider our real purpose in spending three weeks in Playa Gigante. Were we really there to dig a foundation and organize medical supplies, or were we there to help build understanding between communities, to share our culture and an interest in theirs? Through and extended homestay experience and work with the local teen group, our students learned that volunteering is more than building structures; it is about building lasting relationships and understanding.