Friday, September 07, 2012

10 Years Ago Today - Cambodia

Today marks 10 years ago since 18 of us embarked on our time in Cambodia as volunteer Youth Ambassadors for Development. We set off to work and live in Cambodia, with the notion of helping a developing nation and it's people, to share the skills we had as educated young professionals in the array of assignment roles we had.

Actually, for Evie and I we were actually bumped from the original flight from Melbourne, due to a bomb scare in Sydney, and so we were put up in the airport Hilton for the night courtesy of the airline. We had quite the day getting to Phnom Penh the following day, before catching up with the group at the hotel we were all staying for that first orientation week in the country.

During our pre-departure training in Canberra, I remember one of the speakers telling us that this adventure we were all about to embark on would be life changing. To the point that we would forever then mark our lives with the experience we had ahead of us - being life before we went to Cambodia, and life after.

I worked in a shelter for girls, "rescued" from abusive situations, extreme poverty, torture, the sex trade, trafficking circumstances. It was my first professional foray into working with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and working directly with children from trauma backgrounds. I set up support groups within the home, and also worked with the staff to work more effectively with the children. But it was just six months.

This time was both one of the most amazing, and one of the toughest, things I have ever done. Living as an expat in Phnom Penh was one of the best times in my life so far. The work was hard, challenging, confronting, and often frustrating - a real glimpse into some of the good and bad aspects of international development efforts and ideas. It was my first experience with workplace bullying, and feeling let down by a lack of due process. I also experienced some of the toughest weeks of illness I have ever experienced.

As we countdown to a return trip to PP for some of us to mark this anniversary in January, I am keen to share with you some of the photos and stories from that amazing time.

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