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Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Building a Sustainable Cambodia: An Interview with Lauren Dickerson - Page 4

Written by Kristen Hamill
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"From riding my bike to work and being chased in the street by smiling children screaming “HELLO!!!” to seeing those same children play in a sewage canal around the corner from my house, my experience in Cambodia was a total emotional roller coaster. Every day I would think that I’d seen it all, and the next day something else would happen that would make me say the same thing."

 

INTRAVEL: What are some of the habits or lifestyle changes you have picked up while living in Asia?

I cannot wear shoes in peoples’ houses anymore. I also never remember to wash my toothbrush in tap water anymore because I got used to avoiding tap water as much as possible in Asia. Before going to Cambodia, I considered myself to be a very friendly person. However, in Cambodia, where ever I went, people wanted to talk to me due to the fact that I looked different. Now, whenever I’m amongst strangers, I cannot help but make eye contact and smile at them as if they are going to engage me in conversation.

INTRAVEL: From your experience, what sort of opportunities are there for people wanting to travel to Asia to volunteer or work for an NGO?

There are tons of opportunities, especially in the realm of education and children. If you have any concrete skills or expertise, particularly pertaining to medical, infrastructural, educational, legal or human rights, there will probably be someone willing to use you in their organization. At the same time, I strongly recommend volunteering in Cambodia only if you are willing to commit a good amount of time and energy to volunteering. In order to be effective, you really need to throw yourself into the experience. You need to be willing to learn about Cambodian culture, history, current events, language, etc. You also need to be incredibly patient and flexible with your goals. The longer you spend there, the more you’ll be able to get done.

INTRAVEL: What advice can you give to tourists in Cambodia interested in responsible tourism/giving back to the community?

Be friendly. Cambodians are incredibly warm and sweet and do their best to please. Don’t give money to beggars, especially children. You’ll only propagate their problems. Support social enterprises. Do your research before going to Cambodia. Do your very best to see as much of the country as possible. Go off the beaten path and check out remote areas in Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri, Koh Kong, Preah Vihear, Kratie, Kampot. The Cambodian government seems to be interested in pursuing a development strategy based on dismantling its natural resources. Consequently, in a few years time, these natural resources could be unrecognizable.

Building a Sustainable Cambodia: An Interview with Lauren Dickerson, Volunteering in Cambodia, volunteering with a small, grassroots Cambodian organization in Phnom Penh, Kristen HamillCambodia is an unbelievably beautiful, seductive, interesting place. Go, take pictures, talk to people and find a way to get involved in something going on within the country.

©Kristen Hamill

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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