School vacation is a time for the students to rest and relax after their hard work in school, but not for the students of Taichung YMCA. Instead, school vacation is their opportunity for International Volunteer Service Program. This is exactly the reason why students from Taiwan went to Cambodia in order to join the YMCA of Cambodia for its Alternative Tourism program.
Contrary to the traditional mass tourism that is basically consumeristic in nature, Alternative Tourism offers a more sustainable and meaningful type of community-based tourism.
The young volunteers do not expect 5-star accommodations and facilities. They are very satisfied with simple accommodations and simple meals. What they are excited about are the opportunities to get to know the cultures, interact with and give meaningful volunteer services to the local communities. Aside from getting to know the culture of its community, the young travelers also know that their trip is part of a significant community-based project which is beneficial to the local communities.
Last February and July 2016, YMCA Cambodia hosted two groups from Taichung YMCA with a total of seventy (70) participants. In this 8-day program, the students spent time with the public school in a rural community to do works with them. It was also another experience for them to be able to interact with local families as they normally stayed in a homestay. Aside from this, YMCA of Cambodia also conducts programs with the Street Children Center where volunteers could teach, sing, play, and eat with them. This is a worthy program given that the smiles of the children are evidence that they enjoyed being with the volunteers.
YMCA of Cambodia also organized activities with the Som Rong Orphanage.It is a home for many children. Aside from this, the orphanage also sends the children to school. They wanted to increase the understanding and skills of these children that they also give them valuable classes on computer and English language. Similarly, it is a notable thing in the orphanage the high value they put in farming which is the main source of livelihood in Cambodia. They have their own farm where they grow food to feed everyone at the orphanage.
Volunteers that join this program, aside from doing educational activities for the children, would also normally do some construction work during the program. Examples of these are the fences built in Phnom Penh, the classroom walls for a school in Siem Reap. Similarly, the third group from Taichung who had program last February 2017 helped in doing the foundation and building roof for the school.
These were just among the things that the students have experienced and could experience in this AT program. They’ve had a deeper understanding for the lives of the locals and at the same time had a closer appreciation on the works of the farmers in Cambodia.
Of course, the AT program doesn’t only focus on the different programs in the community. It also highlights cultural exchange in order to develop a Global Citizen and establish an inter-cultural relationship. Activities such as visits to heritage sites and the Cultural Night were conducted to give both the young people from sending and receiving countries an opportunity to learn and exchange on the cultures of each one.
The 8-day program may be seen as a small fraction in the lives of these students and the people in the community, however, the impact that it has created surely make ripples in the lives of these people.
Being in a foreign country, knowing it through the different sights, one would see is already a learning experience. But, understanding it in the perspective of the local people, being part of something that you know directly contribute them, is a definite memorable and meaningful experience.
Cambodia, known as the Kingdom of Wonder and being one of the Alternative Tourism sites of the Asia and Pacific YMCA, offers more than the majestic wonder full of history, instead through the AT program, it is inviting people to take part in planting seeds of positive change and taking part in the developing process of this Kingdom.
Perhaps, your next school vacation can actually be as meaningful and as memorable as this one. For more ideas on what else your youth can do when they go to Cambodia, contact Bunthok Deth, NGS Cambodia, firstname.lastname@example.org@camymca.org .