Community First in Cambodia

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I spent almost two months in Siem Reap, Cambodia working with an NGO called Community First. Whilst there I was assisting them on their aquaponics project. This is a type of farming that they hope will help improve the quality and quantity of food produced in Cambodia; a country that suffers from adverse farming conditions, malnutrition and poor diet. It encompasses fish and plant base farming; where fish waste is used to natural fertilize plants and the plants and growing medium in turn filter and clean the water for the fish.

Before I left I was most worried about the long journey to get to our final destination. We had a long flight to Bangkok, an overnight stay and then a long bus ride to Cambodia. I was a bit concerned about us managing to find our accommodation in a city as big and sprawling as Bangkok, and then having to find the bus station the next morning. None of our group spoke any Thai and trying to decipher signs is harder than in western countries as the letters are different. However I think the important thing to remember is to stay relaxed and know you’ll get where you’re going eventually. The confusion of a long journey is part of the travelling experience.

I was also slightly concerned about the technical aspect of what I was going out to do. As an electronics and computer science student I was mostly working with developing sensor technology for the farming systems. This involved some networking and coding that I had never come across before. However I learned a lot from this and will definitely be able to apply what I learnt in Cambodia to university work back in Edinburgh.

The best part of my time abroad was being able spend a longer period of time in a completely new and different place. Cambodia is a fantastic country with an interesting – though tragic – history. Being there for almost two months allowed me to really get to know the area and discover things I might not have seen as an ordinary tourist. It also meant we had time to meet and get to know some of the locals who were incredibly friendly and generous people.

I would greatly recommend a similar experience to anyone. It is the perfect combination of developing skills within a chosen degree, visiting a new and interesting place, whilst doing something to benefit a community.

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This picture shows the aquaponics planting bed with its efficient irrigation system. The fish are kept in a tank below

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This picture shows some of the team standing beside a larger aquaponics system.

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This is one of the many ancient temples found near Siem Reap, Cambodia. This temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. It began as a Hindu monument but eventually became Buddhist.

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This is a Waterfall located on Kulen Mountain, one of the best and most beautiful places we got to visit.

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