West Point Cadets Volunteer AIAD experience in Siem Reap – Owen

July 23, 2008

I came to Cambodia through the summer academic trips program that West Point has. I knew that I wanted to do a service trip in a faraway foreign country. I would say that I was a little disappointed with the amount of work which we got to participate in, but some of the blame for that could be placed on my own lack of initiative.

One experience that I found very valuable was the 48 hours that we spent in a poor local village. It was interesting to be able to catch a greater glimpse of the life of the people in this village, who do not even have a right to the own land on which they build their homes. I was inspired by the level of dignity and grace that some of the families brought to what appeared to us a desperate situation. Getting to know those families has been my best experience in Cambodia.

I also enjoyed teaching at the language school. The dedication of the students to learn English and improve their lives was impressive, the grace and cheer with which they went about it was inspiring for me.

This is the fifth time that I have had a voluntourism type experience, and I love it every time. I think that the people of Cambodia are the most genuinely kind people of a country that I have ever met. JWOC really seems to be making an impact on the local community, but what is more important is that despite having found ways to help people on a large scale, they still have a touching personal feeling for individual hardships that individuals and families go through, and do their best to help people live joyful lives.

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