Volunteering in a non-profit organisation “Touch a life”

Volunteering in a non-profit organisation “Touch a life”

Siem Reap – Cambodia

The most powerful moments of my 1 month in Cambodia was during Volunteering days in Siem Reap. After a lot of research about volunteering, I decide to attend a 2 day volunteering on the organisation “Touch a life”. The organisation is run by a lovely lady named Mavis Ching, who feeds hungry children and delivers meals to families in nearby villages, with the help of volunteers, 3 times a week. You can join them as many days, weeks or even months. They need your help. 🙂  The food preparation and delivery is for 660 poor people, each person receives a cup of rice, an omelette and a cup of soup once a week (every saturday). For the majority of these people, this is the only food they have during a week…think it twice…Once a week!! It took me a few shocking moments until I understand and realise it…

Touch a Life

In addition, a small food delivery for 50 people takes place on the village nearby, every Wednesday, and food lunch, on the house’s front yard every Monday. Except the food, the centre provides medicine to the ones in need and helps them on their daily lives needs with an exchange of volunteering on the centre. 

I arrive early in the morning, where Mrs Mavis and few other volunteers from Singapore, China, France, Iraq, England, Germany and few locals greet me politely. There is an outdoor kitchen and it’s the place where we prepare the food. 3 gas stoves for the omelette preparation and 3 gas stoves for the soup and rice preparation. 

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Depending on the availability, there is a standard person who prepares the omelette with the help of one more volunteer. The rest, participate actively on soup and rice preparation, afterwards on the packing and lastly on the delivery around the villages. The work has to be done fast, we have only from 8am – around 3pm to finalise all the cooking and packing for 660 people. The delivery has to be finalised by around 6.30pm. So incase you are wondering whether the volunteers offer quality time, my answer is yes the work is exclusively by volunteers. 

 

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My role is to cut vegetables and to measure the rice. In order all the people to receive the same amount of rice, it has to be measured equally and to add / omit accordingly. 

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We cut, cut, cut quickly, we laugh, we joke, we sing, we chat, we exchange ideas, we sweat and sweat. Despite the fact that it’s very hot and humid and we have to speed up in order to catch up with the time, we really have a great time!

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Omelette and Pepper

We make a break for a quick breakfast which is Bread, Omelette and Pepper sauce, which is absolutely delicious, especially the pepper sauce! 

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We finalise the packing and here we leave for the villages deliveries. Nothing prepared me for the things to come…

Firstly we stop in the city for food distribution to a few street kids. We continue to the next destination where it’s a land of huts, earthen streets and dust. But also endless poverty… We cross a small road inside the forest and we reach a small village. Firstly, my feelings are controversial…From the one hand, I am horrified with the situation but on the other hand,  happy that I can help at least for 2 days. 

We reach and enter the first house, where an old man leaves alone. His skin colour is dark, dark hair, sad face and he is skinny very skinny. His house is just a small room, smells urine and consists of a wooden bed. How to describe his expression the moment he see us??? A huge smile appeared to his face, I haven’t ever seen such a smile, like a butterfly opens her wings, I am impressed by his calmness, politeness and his gratefulness for the food. One of the most profound expressions of love gave to us was to bow his head and keep saying  “thank you, thank you”, trying to communicate with his little English. 

That was the moment that I snap and outburst. I come out of the room and start crying. I notice that I am not the only one, we keep in silence for a while and I am wondering why life is so hard for some people, hundreds of thoughts passing through my mind…for my life, peace, death, happiness, poverty…everything in just a few seconds. That man on that room, with that big smile hunts me and inspires up to date. 

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The Key to Life

We move to the next room where a blind sick woman lives alone also. Next for our deliveries…everybody knows when the volunteers arrive, they run and shout anxiously to catch up the queue for the food pick up. It is a great exchange of smiles and big thank you’s of adorable children and women. We see a  shocking poverty, lots of kids with bloated stomachs due to hunger, abandoned women with their kids. Believe me, the photos are not showing the large scale of our feelings and the situation in Cambodia.

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It is almost 6pm, we deliver all the food, we are tired of the heat and the dust but we have no right to complain after this experience right? Our main feeling is Happiness, the more we give the happier we feel.

On Monday we cook for around 50 school kids Tom yum soup, vegetables, rice and chilly sauce. The kids arrive at 11.30 and the front yard fills up with cute sounds, smiles and hugs. 

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I wish the time is not passing so quickly. All I know that I feel good in a sense that I had really succeeded in what I came there for: To make a difference even for a very limited time. We have so much in our lives and they have little… who are happiest? Guess and you may re-evaluate your life. 

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If you ever visit Cambodia and you wish to participate in or to help with other ways this is the site:  Touch a Life and the Facebook page

A huge thank you to Mrs Abi and all the amazing volunteers for making my time there better than ever imagined! Life changing experience indeed. 

““This is the key to life: To expect everything to be given to you from above, yet to be genuinely surprised and forever grateful, when they are. Expecting all good things to be yours, while not knowing how to take anything for granted. If there may be a key in life, this is the key.”
― C. JoyBell C.” 

10 Comments

  1. Vrithi Pushkar

    Really touched by your post. Cambodia is on our bucket list. I will make sure to volunteer when I go. It’s the small things in life that make it worth living. Thanks for sharing .

    Vrithi Pushkar
    http://www.epicuriouspassport.com

    • Profile photo of penelopi

      Hi Vrithi, thank you for your message. yes I agree, volunteering is one of the best thing to do in Cambodia and generally to those in need..The feelings were so strong that I can’t really describe them….

  2. findyourworldgirl

    I loved your article Penelopi, it sounds like such a rewarding experience! I wish I had more time to do some worthwhile volunteering in Cambodia, but I am also excited just to meet the lovely people 🙂

  3. Priyadarshini Rajendran

    Great work, seriously impressed. Hope more of us follow your example. Lovely food pics btw, I am a vegetarian and just love looking at veggies lol!

  4. The toughest part of volunteering, based on my experience, is coordination – and you know what they say about too many cooks – so your participating and documenting this effort is fantastic.

    • Profile photo of penelopi

      Hello Brooke, I totally agree with you! Despite the fact that we were a quite few people the lady in charged organises it perfectly and we had so much good time 🙂

  5. This is so touching. It’s great to do volunteer work. I wish more people do it.

Thank you for stopping by!