Blog/interview from Cambodia, 4 July 2014

Blog, 4th July 2014

Paula Hendrikx (Italic)
Anonymous (Roman)

Today I talked with a woman who wants to stay anonymous. She is 23 years old and works as a volunteer coordinator at le Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture (MJC), a place where the youth of Kampot (Cambodia) can come to sport, socialize and study. Her task is to give guidance to the Dutch and French volunteers, and she herself does this totally voluntarily, five days a week. We talked about her experience with working for MJC, but also about living in Kampot and her dreams for the future.


Life in Kampot

How long have you been living in Kampot?

“I have been living in Kampot for eight years now. Before that, I lived in Sihanoukville.”

Which city did you like most?

“I liked to live in both cities. I moved together with my parents to Kampot, because all my cousins and relatives live here in Kampot. We like to live together, because when we have a problem we can solve it together.”

Do you like to live here and what do you like about it?

“Yes, I like to live in Kampot. I like the people here, and I like the places around: Kep, Bokor Mountains, Tek Chou. And I like the view here, because we have a lot of old buildings that are from France. The old buildings can tell the people nowadays about the past, about the people who made it in the past, about their achievements. The old and new buildings are not the same. I like both, but I think the old are nice because we can go in the past, so we remember it.”  

I also really like the old buildings. In Utrecht, I study in old buildings and I really like it. But I live in a new building, together with nine other students.

“I also live in a new building.”


Volunteering at MJC

How long have you been working for MJC?

“I am working for MJC for 1,5 years now. I am not sure yet how long I want to stay.”

Why do you do it and what do you like about it?

“I like to work with the young people. I really like the young people. I work here for my experience. When I studied at the university, we are just reading and talking, but we don’t really get experience. So now I am here. I don’t get a salary, because I just come here for experience.”

What kind of things did you learn from your volunteer work and how do you use these skills?

“During my work as a volunteer, I learned a lot about administration. I also followed a short course in animation and learned a bit about library work. Personally, the volunteer work made me brave to do something and to talk. Before, I couldn’t give a presentation in the class. But now I can present to the class to do an announcement! Before, I was really shy, but now I can do it. And I learned a lot about social things, because we always make a lot of visits and change experiences. I meet a lot of people from outside. And you?”

As a volunteer, I learned to teach for a class consisting of people who cannot speak English very well. In this way I learned to become more patient. It takes a long time before some students can remember a song on the piano or pronounce a word correctly, but I have to stay calm.

What kind of skills would you like to learn still and how would you like to develop these skills?

“I want to learn more about how to work with volunteers. Sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it’s easy. I think I have to study about this. I try to learn about the people, so that it’s more easy to work with each other.”


What are you proud of?

“Eh, that’s a difficult question, I don’t really know.”

For example, I am proud that I finished my study, and at the same time have good friends in the Netherlands to have a nice time with. Also, I am proud that I came to Cambodia to do this, all on my own, and that it went very well.

“For me it’s a little bit the same. I finished my study and I have good friends. I am proud that I can join with social work; I’m proud of myself that I am brave to talk with foreigners. And I am proud that if I do something wrong, I will correct it. I always cheer myself up to do something. For example, I always say: ‘Come on, you have to do it, you can do it. Even if you do it wrong, try the best!’”



What is your dream for the future? Why is this your dream?

“I want to have my own business, a small supermarket, like my parents. I will take the shop from my parents, but I want to make it bigger, to earn more money. When I am at home, I sometimes work in the shop. But if I’m a little bit tired, I just stay in my room.

I studied accounting, but I want to be a real businesswoman. It is not the same. I learned a lot at my university. I studied not only accounting, but you have a lot of subjects: economics, strategy, banking, business, English. I finished two years ago. If you want to work at a bank, you need to study more. But I don’t want to, because I want to start my business.

If you study a lot and have a lot of certificates and you apply at a company, the most important things they want to see are a CV, a motivation letter, and certificates. So I think certificates are really important.”

“By the way, in my dream, I also want to be a doctor. But my score is not good, I cannot do it. It is seven years to study to be a doctor, and after, you have to practice three years.”

Is it expensive to study? “No, not too much. I could do one more study, if I wanted. My parents would support me. It is 198 dollars a year.”

Some people like to study a lot, others don’t. I really like to study, but in the Netherlands it is very expensive to do a second study.

“We also have short courses. I did some extra courses: money and banking, accounting and English. You have to pay for it and can follow it on university. You get a certificate for it.”


In concluding, I hope this dialogue gives you an idea of life in Cambodia. In most aspects, life is totally different. For her, it’s enough to follow her parents in their footsteps, in their business and to live in Kampot. She never wants to leave this city, and a trip to the capital city (which I made together with her to buy books for the library at MJC) is already a very big event for her. She would never think of leaving the country ever in her life. There are way less possibilities, but she also doesn’t need them. Life is good the way it is. Although there are of course a lot of downsides, I think this is an important lesson for our life in the West, where people always want to have more and more and are never satisfied.   


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