From South Korea to Cambodia, from useless to useful?

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July 10th 2013
Published: July 10th 2013
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So it's quite clear that I've been rather remiss in updating my blog as the last blog I published/wrote was in fact on Australian soil. Since then I've set my size 8 (no longer stilleto clad feet) in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Macao, Hong Kong, and South Korea. But never fear, I've reset my password, made an internal commitment to continue blogging and perhaps most importantly I actually have an extrinsic motivation to blog. This motivation is strongly linked to the next countries soil that these feet will be stepping onto - Cambodia. Thus all the necessary boxes are ticked, and I shall be adding my warbling to the already massive amounts of warbling that exist on the inter-webs.

You want more information you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. So after a year in Korea land where I've felt mostly useless as a teacher (more on that later) I felt the need to 'DO' something worthwhile with my time. Something that 'actually mattered'. I had many a person sit me down and tell me that the time I've spent in Korea has mattered and that I most probably have no idea of the seeds of dissent *cough* growth that I have planted, but on a deeply personal level, I feel that I have essentially spent the year in lieu. In order to remedy this I started researching free volunteer opportunities around Asia. Fortunately, after I was starting to become quite jaded with the opportunities I was finding online, a friend linked me this site:

Since landing in China, Cambodia had been on my 'places to visit before going home' list, so it was my first port of call. After quite a lot of musing, e-mailing, researching, sleepless nights, meditation and discussion I decided upon 'Volunteer in Cambodia - Conversations with Foreigners'.

Which brings me directly to why I have started blogging again. I really struggled when hunting for information that wasn't derived directly from the website itself. It seems to avoid the many pitfalls of 'voluntourism', and from what I can glean, seems to be a pretty worthwhile endeavour. Additionally when it was bought to the attention of the program that some previous volunteers were unhappy with parts of their experience, change was implemented. Thus I feel like I could invest my time, energy, and funds (rent, food, transport etc) in this and feel some sense of satisfaction that I am contributing to something bigger than myself. Indeed I am basing this on the premise that people seem rather more eager to share bad experiences than good experiences. As such my intent is to blog and vlog about my experiences with CWF. So far it's been pretty superb.

So what does Conversations With Foreigners (CWF) do?

"CWF is a popular English-language center for Cambodians in Phnom Penh and is a socially ethical organization committed to a sustainable model of learning and cultural exchange. CWF’s Volunteer in Cambodia program offers a unique volunteer experience as our teaching program allows volunteers to pass on valuable language skills whilst experiencing life in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. Our model benefits both our students and volunteers, and also enables us to provide a sustainable source of funding to our local partner NGO, the Cambodian Rural Development Team, whose work benefits some of the poorest rural communities in Northeast Cambodia."

Conversations With Foreigners. 2006. Volunteer in Cambodia. Available at: .

To sideline this momentarily, one of my major concerns about volunteering (as opposed to just backpacking) was whether I actually had anything of significant value to offer. My educational background is composed of a psychology degree, fitness qualifications, and TESOL. Most of my work experience has revolved around a combination of two or three of these elements, teaching sport, acting as a youth worker, and most recently TESOL. With two and a half years teaching experience which has included University, IELTS, middle school, high school, adults and the like I feel and think that I may be able to make a somewhat positive contribution in the right circumstances. I stumbled upon quite a few volunteer opportunities that were desperate for 'experienced people', but where I would have felt it fraudulent to classify myself as such a person, especially when programs called for 'curriculum or pedagogical development'. Sites such as

were instrumental in not just informing me about the 'hows and whys' of development, but also of the detrimental role I may play in not being proactive about seeking a suitable role. Alas this still doesn't help with the problem of 'altruism', and how volunteer work might be more selfish than we like to think. Anyway, that's another blog all by itself.

Back on track, a quick summary of the application process:

Go to the main page, up in the top right hand corner is a button that says 'Apply', this will take you to this page which has all the info you need to start the process.

Essentially you need:

• Reference checks
• A recent (no more than 6 months old) criminal record check (from all the countries you've worked in previously e.g. I had to submit one from Australia, China and South Korea)
• A photo (in JPG, JPEG, or PNG format)
• CV (DOC, DOCX, ODT, or PDF max 2mb)
• Passport number
• Referee information

Most importantly:

• Be prepared for a screening interview!

My personal experience: Before contacting me for an interview Ms. Uk Soriya (Volunteer Support Coordinator) contacted my referees. There was an issue because I mistyped an email address. However this was easily fixed in just a couple of e-mails. After my referees had responded I received an e-mail inviting me for a skype interview (skype contact: volunteerincambodia). I randomly had to teach an afternoon class, so I had to reschedule my interview time. Again there didn't seem to be a problem doing this. I was interviewed by two volunteers at the house, a foreigner and a local. Both were friendly, and happy to answer my questions. I was told that I was accepted into the program at the end of the skype interview. Additionally on the application form I had indicated that I wanted to live in the volunteer house, there was an e-mail requesting information as to why I expressly requested this (past experience with housing), which was met with an assurance that I was welcome to live in the house, but similiar levels of support would be provided should I choose to live independently (lack of help being my main concern). Overall a very positive experience.
An equally quick summary of the questions and answers that I've asked and received (always in a timely manner) shall be included in my next blog!

Until then, take care, and meditate!

" The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die." - Edward 'Ted' Kennedy (1993-2009)


10th July 2013

very admorable
Hi Carly! Great to hear you have rationalized and researched your volunteering. Many people these days seem to dive into these things without thinking seriously about the impact they're having on the community they are about to interact with. I hope all goes well for you!

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