BATTAMBANG, Cambodia – With several friends, I spent some of my summer on a volunteer trip working with a school in the city of Battambang, Cambodia.
It was a unique opportunity for me to see and experience a different culture from my own in Taiwan.
I also got to make a difference, no matter how small, to this community.
Education is important. It not only provides knowledge, but also a chance to change and live a better life. This chance, however, is taken away from children in many places in this world.
A Cambodian boy flashes a big smile at a young volunteer. (Roger Chen/YJI)
What we take for granted may be a faraway dream for people living in these regions.
We worked with a local school called FEDA, which provides education for local students at a cost of $2 per month. It was formerly free, but they couldn’t handle the overwhelming amount of students.
It’s more of an afterschool program, where students come to learn what they can’t in school, like English and how to use computers – both important skills they value.
The newly painted wall at the entrance to FEDA, a school in Battambang, Cambodia. (Roger Chen/YJI)
During the trip, we had a chance to visit two of the students’ family and interview them, getting an insight into their lives.
At first, I was still confused about whether an international volunteer like me would make much difference in this community in such a short period of time.
Through these interactions I realized we visitors weren’t the only ones who got to see a different world. The Cambodian students did, too.
When I asked them about their dreams when they grow up, both the families I interviewed shook their heads, indicating they had none.
The local teachers told us that most of these students have no idea of the possibilities they have in the future. Almost all families are farmers.
The most respected jobs there are teachers and doctors, because those are the only other people they meet. Through our visits, they got a view into a world they’d never seen before, a vision outside of their small community.
A classroom at the FEDA school in Battambang. (Roger Chen/YJI)
And maybe our jobs, as international volunteers, was to bring back what we saw and what we learned. If we share our experiences, it might influence others to make a difference, too.
Kelly Liu is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International. Roger Chen is a photographer for Youth Journalism International.
The local families the visiting students served are primarily farmers. (Roger Chen/YJI)
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