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Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Riel Deal - Trymore comes to Cambodia!

“Each one of us is able to help another”, I believe these words to be true and that explains my passion for volunteer work. I am Trymore, I’m from Zimbabwe and I’m currently volunteering at JWOC as a Financial Literacy Advisor. Volunteering at JWOC has been special as it has allowed me to use my knowledge and experience in reaching out to local communities in Siem Reap.
This is my second long term volunteer experience in South East Asia. It has been almost four years since my last experience and I had been craving for this opportunity. Through volunteering I have discovered a lot about the world, it’s more than what the media shows. Cambodia has been a beautiful story of how human we all are. Very few people understand and speak English, nevertheless I have been able to get directions from these very same people, interact in sign language conversations over meals and communicate thousands of emotions with a smile.

So how did I end up here?
I’m still young, full of vigor and fully aware that I have to make the most of my prime years. Taking a break from work I was exploring which places to go and it dawned on me that I could do some voluntary work. I spent a long time searching for what I wanted, but from the moment that I came across JWOC there was a connection. Their volunteer opportunities were attractive, this made me curious and as I got to know the work they do – I was sure this is the place I wanted to be. My idea of an adventure took on a new meaning; it became an adventure with purpose.  
The work I do at JWOC includes the development of Financial Literacy workshops for the rural communities in Siem Reap. These workshops are designed for the villagers who are mostly illiterate. As a young finance professional, I agree that financial literacy is important for the alleviation of debt, creation of wealth and improved living standards. JWOC’s mandate to educate these people is admirable. Through the development stages I engage in discussions with the JWOC scholarship students who willingly share their stories and information on the town that I find very helpful.
Working with the staff at JWOC is a delight; they are committed individuals who tirelessly serve the community. I was fortunate to have volunteered around the time they have their staff capacity building training day. The trip was a good experience for me and I believe the same for the staff, it was well organized, met the objective of the day and was so much fun!
The results this team delivers is unbelievable considering the number of projects and programs they have running. From the Free Classes program I have had good English conversations with kids as young as nine whose command of the language is exceptional thanks to these classes. I have managed to have a tour of the villages were JWOC worked under their Clean Water program and visited a house which was still being supported by one of the wells 5 years after installation. I have bumped into people who have been assisted by JWOC in a restaurant or at a gas station and the stories they share are amazing. One scholarship alumni I met is now employed in a reputable international organization.

During my time here I have assisted in other areas, reading a book on Father’s Day for the children at Sunday art class is one of my most memorable experiences. I enjoy photography and occasionally join the community support team when they go to the field on weekends to conduct training's. The training is done in Khmer, but while capturing moments during these training's I know that each image will convey a story to the world of what JWOC is doing.

Siem Reap is a melting pot of cultures, a place where anyone can belong. Indeed I was shocked to find a lively international community of expats and tourists in this small town that I only got to know from my flight booking. As a volunteer I’ve had days off which has allowed me to explore and also visit the historic Ankgor Wat temples which are breathtaking to see at sunrise! The diversity this town displays encompasses the whole world within 2km, various restaurants serve cuisines from all parts of the world and some operate 24 hours. The integration between the locals and foreigners is well orchestrated unlike most places I have been. Life here is generally relaxed - something I have appreciated while being on a break.

My desired outcome from this volunteer experience is to have these people understand financial management in a functional way. They are illiterate but from the workshops they will develop sound financial practices that will allow them to pay off their debt, start saving and improve their livelihood. After the workshops I will be involved in the analysis of the results and assessment to see the positive or negative impact, this might involve me visiting Siem Reap after my volunteer period is over. Otherwise I will be in communication with the Community Support Manager as I make every effort to have the workshops successful.

I would like to thank JWOC for the work they are doing, I have only managed to work for the few months that I’ve been here but their good work has been going on for more than a decade. Sometimes the best job in the world does not give you status or salary but allows you to contribute towards other people’s lives. Would I advise any professional to volunteer with JWOC? Yes! Take the leap!
 

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