Five Lessons from Cambodia


By Jenyfer Joy:

On the 28th of June this year, I packed my bags and flew off to Cambodia. I departed from a very cold, frosty Sydney at 4 am and by the time I arrived in Phnom Penh, it was a boiling 37 degrees. It’s been exactly two weeks since my arrival in Cambodia. I was excited about receiving this opportunity from UWS and VOICE. Although my initial purpose was to share what I have learned about first aid and health with the community, I know I have learnt more from the amazing people in Phnom Penh. Here are five lessons I would like to share with you from Cambodia:


  1.     Never look back: The traffic system in Phnom Penh is created for the adventurous, the renegades and the carefree souls. Unfortunately, for me this meant holding my VOICE friends’ hands whilst crossing. When I first crossed the road I was screaming my head off as dozens of motorbikes, cars and tuk tuks drove straight at me. But now it’s the second week, I have learned a secret trick. I feel less anxious and think less about the risks associated with crossing the road if I do not look back at all.



  1.       Go with the flow: The best piece of advice I received when I arrived is to go with the flow when you are in Cambodia. Whether it be with the weather, traffic or even work. The Khmer people view time as a continuous process rather than a linear structure. I suppose this may come from the predominant religion, Buddhism, in which people belief that life is part of a cycle of eternal change.


  1.     Use history to your advantage: When I went to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng prison, I was overwhelmed and could not sleep that night. The real life experience of walking through the area where so many people had been subject to tyranny, suffering and death made me realise not only the importance of good moral leaders but the significance of ethical values in society. What I really admired is that the Khmer people are using the sites to educate the modern generation. We need to learn the history in order to build a culture of peace in the future.


  1.     Take time to be with children: Children! After being hugged and receiving affectionate hi-fives over a hundred times by now, I just don’t want to leave the children. Every time I have been to a school in Phnom Penh, the children have always come running up to our group and made us feel very welcome. They follow us everywhere and their genuine cheerfulness is something I will greatly miss for sure when I go back to Sydney. Although, most of the young children speak very little English and I know very little of the Khmer language we have found ways to communicate through smiles, hand hi –fives and taking selfies!


  1.    Focus on the bigger picture: When I was sitting amongst a group of six-year-old students in a classroom, it dawned on me how I have been distracted by the little things. Because in the community they have all the shops and houses in close proximity to the classroom, it was easy for me to get distracted by the constant sound of music and other people’s chatter. However the students I sat with were fully focused on the bigger picture; their education. Their ability to concentrate and focus solely on their education in an environment full of distraction assures me that they will all have bright successful futures.

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