With this Principal Go Abroad Fund, I was able to spend a wonderful and fulfilling two weeks of summer working with special needs children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which I hope to have stayed longer in the end.
Orientation was held in the first two days with other newly arrived volunteers. During the orientation, we were taken to a tour around the city and introduced more about Cambodia. It is a country with so many stories to tell alongside the beautiful culture that preserve despite having to experience a dark past and still facing many hardships nowadays.
The ailments of the children in the orphanage cover autism, cerebral palsy and Down’s Syndrome. The symptoms include lacking of motor skills, difficulties in verbal communication and, learning disabilities. What I did was assisting local stuff in leading activates such as singing, cleaning, feeding, and bringing then children out for walk. We also had to be energetic and keep the children stimulated. This is something I found difficult at first.
At the very beginning, I was feeling helpless as I did not know how to communicate with the children. It is very different from interacting with a normal child who easily makes eye contact with you and gives responses. However, slowly, without pushing myself too much, I started to open up and be able to observe the different behaviors of the children. Things got better with the advice from other volunteers as well. I also learned to be patience and positive when interacting with the children. Even when they did not response to what I did, I should not make any bad assumption or feel disappointed about it. I constantly searched for different stimulations and had their best interests at heart. When I learned to commit all myself without expecting returns, I received so much more from the them: love, satisfaction, new values, empathy, to name a few.
Two weeks passed with a blink of an eye. We bade goodbye with a heavy heart and promised to visit them if we ever go back to Phnom Penh. I never regretted choosing this volunteering program. Although the thoughts of working with special needs children might sound daunting at first, you soon realize that every child is special and unique, some of them are even smart and intelligent. I sincerely hope that things would change for the better for all of them.