Two parallel journeys – winding down and ramping up!

On the road again. Moving my furniture and myself from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a somewhat new journey.

On the road again. Moving my furniture and myself from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on a shifting new journey.

And so ends the final week of my volunteer placement. After a bit over 14 months, I’m finishing up the final details of a year that has whizzed by. A year that has drastically altered my life and taken me in a new direction.

I’m in a van with all my belongings en route to Siem Reap, the land of Angkor Wat and the heart of the Kingdom of Wonder. I have about 5 more hours on a bumpy road that I think will be the end of my wine glasses.

Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say ‘We have done this ourselves’.
– Lao Tzu Continue reading

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Ode to the granny bike

grannyDutch blood runs through my veins. My legs are genetically supposed to begin making cycling movements before I even start to walk…

In my volunteer programme, we are generally expected to ride bicycles if our workplaces are within 5km or so from our homes. Living in Phnom Penh, most of us reside close to work. When I arrived and had a look at the chaotic city traffic and chronically potholed roads, I thought there was no way I was getting on a bicycle. Not even to mention the fact I had arrived in Cambodia under that stifling heat at the beginning of the rainy season and daily flooding. Other volunteers encouraged me to get on a bicycle and give it a try – which I did once – and subsequently made a decision to never try again. Alternatively, I decided to focus my Dutch genes on spinning classes at the gym with machine bikes, cute instructors, and pounding dance music! Continue reading

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One year to the day – looking back at my Cambodian journey


My first month in Cambodia can be summed up simply as “feeling hot”!

Today is special day for me. It is one year since I got on a flight from Vancouver to Seoul, en route to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I remember so clearly the morning of June 3, 2013. I woke up with a knot in my stomach.  I had big plans, but I couldn’t shake the profound sadness I felt to leave the life I had built up for myself over the last five years since I had returned to Canada in 2008. I knew that this journey would be taking me on a new path. Continue reading

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Building the basics – I just need a ride to the hospital…


Sometimes innovation is simple. This hospital provides mosquito nets, cooking facilities, and clean water in the waiting room where some patients wait overnight.

When you think about healthcare in a developing country you probably imagine pretty rudimentary equipment, long waits, questionable doctors, and lots of other challenges that might put your health at risk. I can’t deny that much of Cambodia might fulfil that vision. Healthcare is really a huge issue here. Even for me, if anything major comes up I will be whisked away to Thailand for proper treatment. But where does that leave the common Cambodian? I have heard many stories of people who simply died because they could not get to any facility. Clinics are popping up around the country, often funded through development aid projects. But building a clinic in a rural area doesn’t always override major obstacles. Continue reading

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So what am I really doing here from 9-5? Space for a civil society voice in Cambodia

It’s a new year. It has also been six months since I actually started my work in Cambodia. I have been blogging about quite a few things, but haven’t touched on the bulk of my daily life in Cambodia. This has been deliberate. Most of you that also know me professionally will recognise that I am very careful about interpreting my work.  I wanted to really take the time to deeply understand my work and the environment before attempting to explain what I’m doing and how it fits in the larger picture. Continue reading

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Development work and the blessed/cursed ‘per diem’


In Cambodia, like many development aid recipient countries, a ‘per diem’ allowance to participate in a workshop can be a major incentive for attendance.

Unlike many of my colleagues working with grassroots in the field, this is an issue that I haven’t reflected much upon before coming to Cambodia. As an employee, I’ve received ‘per diem’ allowances for lots of travel with organisations. Per diem is the term used to call a set amount of money that has been calculated to cover expenses for work-travel. Sometimes that amount includes accommodations, food, transportation, incidentals, or a combination of these expenses. If I think back to some of my per diems, they were often very generous. I might not have been able to spend the full amount even if I tried. Continue reading

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Serving Cambodia – Why here, why now?

River sunsetBarely more than a month ago I announced to my family, friends, and network that I’d be leaving to work in Cambodia through a volunteering organisation. As I have mentioned before, the support I’ve received has been phenomenal, inspired through motivating messages and generous contributions to my fundraising efforts. When I decided to do this, it had come to a point after deep reflection and serious consideration. Many factors weighed into the decision. Although there was always a choice, the real choice seemed clear to me. Continue reading

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Generosity in action – My revelations around fundraising


A real social media telethon!

Two weeks ago I set out to raise funds for Cuso International, the volunteer-sending organisation that is funding my upcoming work in Cambodia. Cuso sends North Americans around the world to contribute to reducing poverty through diverse projects in the realms of governance, livelihoods, education, disability, and health.

I committed to raising $2,000 for this cause which also supports me to engage in this specific project. When I began to think about fundraising, and the fact that I had never done it before, I felt rather daunted by how to begin. Continue reading

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