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. She 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 in the village nearby, every Wednesday, and food lunch, on the house’s front yard every Monday. Except for the food, the centre provides medicine to the ones in need and helps them in their daily lives needs with an exchange of volunteering at 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. 

Volunteer in Cambodia - Siem reap - maninio.com - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia

volunteer in touch a life - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Fresh eggs from the cambodia market- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Depending on the availability, there is a standard person who prepares the omelette with the help of one more volunteer. The rest, participate actively in 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 8 am – around 3 pm to finalise all the cooking and packing for 660 people. The delivery has to be finalised by around 6.30pm. So in case you are wondering whether the volunteers offer quality time, my answer is yes the work is exclusively by volunteers. 

 

Volunteers have fun in touch a life - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Omelette cooking in touch a life - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Omelette with herbs - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Omelette is ready to be delivered to poor kids- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Fresh rice cleaning- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

 

My role is to cut vegetables and to measure the rice. The rice has to be measured equally and to add/omit accordingly. 

Sticky rice preparation for poor kids - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Rice wrapping for poor kids- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Rice packaging - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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!

Volunteers have fun- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Carrots from market in siem reap - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Fresh beans from markets in Cambodia - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Fresh eggplants from Cambodian markets- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Eggplant cut for Cambodian soup - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Food preparation for poor kids - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Cambodian soup cooking - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Soup preparation- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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! 

Breakfast time in touch a life- #volunteertouchalife #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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 sees 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 in that room, with that big smile, hunts me and inspires up to date. 

Food is ready for villages deliveries in siem reap- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Siem reap villages in Cambodia - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Poor man in village of siem reap asking for food - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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.

Kids and parents waiting for their food in siem reap- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

 

Just love village kids in Siem Reap #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Volunteer for food with a village lady- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Poor kids in siem reap villages- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Village lady peeling garlic at her work- #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

Siem reap villages poor people- #volunteersiemreap #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

It is almost 6 pm and we delivered all the food. We are exhausted by the heat and the dust but we have no right to complain. 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. 

Cooking in the organisation touch a life -#volunteerintouchalife #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

 

 

Volunteer in Cambodia, school kids having lunch - Siem Reap - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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 here 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. 

Volunteering team - Siem Reap  - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

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! They make my time 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.” 

For my experience in Angkor Wat, you can view it Here

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Volunteer in Cambodia - Siem Reap  - #volunteerinasia #volunteerinsiemreap maninio.com

Volunteer in Cambodia - Siem Reap - touch a life - #volunteerinasia #volunteerincambodia maninio.com

26 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

    • 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.

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

  6. WOW! Thank you so much for posting this – I will def be volunteering there when I visit.

  7. What a sad situation that we are so privileged in comparison 🙁

  8. I was incredibly moved by your post. As an American, I tend to take so many things for granted, especially food. Thank you for putting life back into perspective.

  9. Wow, such a neat opportunity. Thanks for sharing it with us Pinelopi!

  10. Your article really moved me. I have to admit that I didn’t really connect with the country when I visited, but maybe I was looking in all the wrong places. If I ever return I will most definitely seek out Mrs Abi and help in any way I can. Life changing indeed and thank you so much for sharing

  11. What an incredible experience. I would love to have done something like that when I visited places like Siem Reap. It really seems like you helped make a difference and of course expanded your own worldview at the same time.

  12. That was a great post – very interesting. So many of us don’t realise how fortunate we really are until we see poverty like this first hand. I can understand how it may have been overwhelming for you at times. Thank you for making the effort to help those less fortunate & for detailing the experience so well.

  13. You are right. This is hard to see, but really to Read, as we aren’t there to experience what you volunteers did in person. I hope more people wake up to the conditions we have created in the world. I hope we do better for each other. I hope we do it soon. Have saved the name of the program for the future. Thanks

  14. I really liked Siem Reap and it would have been great to spend some more time there volunteering.

  15. Wow your post really touched my heart. It is so sad to see people suffering but it is so unbelievably impressive at the same time that there are organisations that do such amazing things. I just came back from my Malawi trip. This country and it´s people are amazing but unfortunately it´s the poorest country in the world and lot´s of help is needed as well. If I am going back there one day I would also love to help in an organisation like you did in Cambodia. Thanks for sharing.

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