Jordan Fitzgibbon - 2015 Program Participant

Volunteer teacher with local students in Cambodia

The volunteer teacher and her students in Cambodia

What made you decide to volunteer abroad?

I have wanted to volunteer overseas for a few years now and this year was it!

Why did you choose IVHQ over other volunteer program providers?

I was recommended IVHQ through a family friend who was currently volunteering with them. Their fees were considerable cheaper than other volunteer organisations and the website and information provided was professional, detailed, but easy to follow.

What did you like best about Siem Reap? 

Siem Reap is a beautiful, clean, laid back city that is a great tourist destination with so much to see and do. The locals are very friendly, and I felt safe and respected in the community.

What surprised you most about Cambodia?

Probably just the heat at the time I was volunteering. I knew it was going to be their hottest time of the year, and it sure was!

What made your volunteer experience unique? 

I was teaching English at a beautiful orphanage that housed 35 children aged between eight to 18. The director worked hard to support the upbringing of these children. They had a mini farm with ducks and pigs and they grew their own rice and vegetables. They had also just established a mushroom farm to grow and sell these at the markets. While I was there, I donated funds to build a chicken house, and buy hens and roosters for eggs to eat and sell as well. The children are all such sweethearts who just want to learn, listen, and get to know you! The staff were very appreciative of our efforts, and made you feel like a part of the family! I was so so sad to leave all of the children and locals I worked with. I aim to be back to visit them or even volunteer there again very soon!

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff were great! Friendly, accommodating, genuine, and happy to help or support you, answering any questions or concerns directly. This made for a smooth transition into the volunteer house, the placements, and just everyday life within this new country!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

Stayed longer!

International teacher with local students outside Ksedo School in Cambodia

Older students get their chance to pose for the camera, too

What was a typical day like for you as a volunteer in Cambodia?

From 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.: bike to school, hang out with the children, teach an hour English class, hang out with the children, bike back to volunteer house. From 11 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: have a lunch break, rest, explore the town/shops/markets, socialise with other volunteers, lesson plan, nap. From 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.: bike to school, hang out with the children, teach an hour English class, hang out with the children, bike back to volunteer house.

What did you like doing on your freetime?

Being a tourist! Traveling around, seeing the sites, and experiencing the culture. The beach, elephant sanctuary, temples, and lots and lots of delicious food to try!

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

The accommodation was more than I expected! Very clean and tidy, big rooms, massive beds, fridge/freezer available, and there was a water filter system that was very handy! And I can't forget to mention the amazing local dishes that were prepared for us daily by the lovely cooks; we were very lucky!

Do you have any packing tips for volunteers headed to Cambodia?

You don't need to take too many toiletries, they do have everything anyway. But I probably could actually have taken more of my own clothes. The markets are great, but better for just souvenirs instead of general clothing, so I had a small rotation of shorts and singlets.

Cambodian student giving a report in front of the class

A student reports in front of the class.

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad in Cambodia?

I didn't really find anything too too hard. There were challenges along the way but I feel I'm a pretty flexible person, so I was able to adjust myself to change and or adapt to difficulties.

Maybe the “hardest” thing was not knowing what I was actually expected to teach the children. But we soon established what worked and didn't work, and what the children really needed to focus on, and the rest just fell into place!

Was it difficult to communicate with locals?

Not really. Pretty much everyone could speak or understand some English, or they were able to quickly grab someone who did. We got really good at using synonyms and metaphors to describe what a word meant or what we were trying to get across, and this worked!

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Cambodia?

My volunteering prep was fine, but I probably should have researched more about the country itself. I knew I would learn a lot during my time there, but I was kind of shocked at the sad recent history and at how vulnerable poor little Cambodia is over there.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

It's so rewarding! Working with the beautiful children who are so willing to learn and get to know you; you can really see their enthusiasm and how much they appreciate you being there with them!

Also volunteering with a big organisation, it was great to be living and working with other like minded people from all over the world. I have made lifelong friendships and broadened my people and places to visit and stay!

Visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia

With other volunteer teachers in Angkor Wat

Now that you're home, how has volunteering abroad impacted your life? 

I just want to go back. I loved the whole experience; it was fun, challenging, and so very rewarding! I have already recommended Cambodia as a place to visit, but also the volunteering organisation IVHQ, to close friends and family. I just can't stop raving about the amazing teaching program and exciting adventures I was fortunate enough to be a part of!

Would you recommend International Volunteer HQ to other volunteers?

I already have! The organisation was great. The website is straightforward, programs very affordable, and all the staff were straight to the point and helpful. I felt good about the whole process, I would definitely volunteer through them again!

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

I have definite plans to sometime return to Cambodia, even just on my own, to revisit my old school teaching or just helping out where I can. Plus, there are so many other schools and orphanages there as well I would love to share my experience with!

I would love to volunteer anywhere in Southeast Asia really! And also eventually get over and down to South America!