Volunteering at Youth Star Cambodia

Where did you volunteer? 
I volunteered in 2011 for a Cambodian NGO, called Youth Star Cambodia. The organization trains Cambodian graduates in the fields of education, women's rights, human trafficking, sustainable livelihoods and good governance. The graduates live in provincial communities who are most affected by these issues, form youth clubs and then advocate on these issues with the youth club. This encourages the young people of Cambodia to get more involved in civil society and enables them to live a life free from violence. It also helps the wider community to  lift themselves out of poverty.

onboatvistingremotevillageWhy did you choose this organization / how did you hear about it?

I was given three voluntary placement choices by the organization 2Way Development, who organized my placement. One was in Mexico, one in Kenya and one in Cambodia. At the time Kenya had a lot of civil unrest. Mexico also had some problems concerning the safety of human rights workers, and as I always wanted to go to Cambodia anyway the choice was simple. I immediately liked the profile of the NGO and once I had skyped with the Managing Director I was even keener on going.

What was a typical day like? 
A typical day was much like a day in my job back in the UK actually (apart from my animal friends visiting me every day). I am a communications advisor by trade and one of my main tasks in the NGO was to write a communications and fundraising strategy, implement the strategies, write funding proposals for potential donors, design program work, do organizational/business planning and building the capacity of local staff in those areas, so that they were all trained up by the time I had to leave the organization. again I coached them in communications, how to set objectives and aims, amongst other things, and I also line-managed some staff.

How long did you spend there and how much did it cost to volunteer there?
My placement wasn't the cheapest, as I had to pay a fee of about 600 Pounds and also had to cover my own living costs for six months. But I got great pre-departure training from 2Way and good support whilst in Cambodia. And for me it was a good investment, as it laid the foundations of a new career in International Development. I worked for the Department for International Development in the UK before I came to Cambodia, but never had practical experience from the field. I really wanted to develop a career in that area and the placement has really helped me with that, as after the six months I was offered the opportunity to stay on as a consultant. 

schoolWhat did you learn from your experience?

I learned so many things from this experience professionally and personally actually. In general I think I learned to appreciate a lot of things I had before, but didn't have during my placement, such as having constant electricity, internet or pest control in the office (I had regular visits from ant colonies or geckos 😉 ). I also learned to live more happily with far fewer possessions. I used to have so many gadgets and nick-nacks back in the UK. In Cambodia I own 2 plates, glasses, cups and cutlery and I haven't been clothes shopping for over 6 months. It is quite liberating to be able to fit all of your pocessions into a backpack actually.

Do you think you will volunteer again?
I would definitely volunteer again. I am actually currently volunteering in Cambodia again at the moment. It is for an NGO again and I am doing a similar role. Volunteering has become an integral part of my life and even before I came to Cambodia I did a lot of volunteering in the UK for UNICEF, Amnesty International and Yarl's Wood Befrienders. I don't think I will ever give up volunteering completely. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life in my opinion.

Would you recommend this to anyone else?
Volunteering is not always easy and not always glamorous either. There may be cultural clashes, you might become homesick or you might struggle to adjust to live in a complete different country, but you will also learn so much about a country, international development issues and yourself. As long as you don't expect it to be a walk in the park (because it isn't), then you will have an amazing time. For me it was such a rewarding experience that I would recommend it to anyone.

mewithbabyCan you share a favourite memory from your time there?

My favourite memory was from a field trip to visit one of our programs in the countryside. The village I visited was so remote that people there have never seen a foreigner in their life. Old women came to me to touch my skin to feel if I was indeed a real person and not a ghost. Cambodian women seem to love pale skin and I think I actually hold the unofficial world record for being the palest woman on earth. The children were also beyond excited and surrounded me immediately to practice their English with me. It was a moment I will never forget.


Tammy from Tammy & Chris on the Move blogs about her voluntary work, travels and misadventures across the globe. Follow her journey on her blog, Tammy& Chris on the Move, on Twitter or on Facebook.

7 responses to “Volunteering at Youth Star Cambodia”

  1. Great interview. I love that Tammy used the skills she already had from her professionaly life and applied them to volunteering. 

    • Izy Berry says:

      That’s the great thing about volunteering – it usually works two ways. Either you use skills you already have to benefit a community, or you pick up new skills which you can take with you. 

    • Thanks Bethaney. It really makes it a lot easier finding a placement where you can make a difference that way. If you are doing something you have never done before you could end up being out of your depth, so I felt much more comfortable that way.

  2. Forest Parks says:

    Cambodia is certainly on my list and although I likely won't go as an organised volunteer I would love to volunteer when I am in the region.

    Thanks for the awesome insight.

    • clbberry@gmail.com says:

      Hey, thanks for your comment. Cambodia is a great place, especially to volunteer. The locals are so warm and receptive. Definitely worth doing :)

  3. Thanks again for interviewing me Izy.:-)