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Marlyn Smit-Hooftman - Care, General Care Projects in Cambodia

Caring for the children My name is Marlyn Smit-Hooftman, I am an older volunteer from the Netherlands. I have been volunteering in Cambodia for 4 weeks. So firstly why did I choose Cambodia?

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries of South East Asia and needs a lot of help. The people are very friendly and it is a safe country. In the day time you can go out and about on your own visiting different places.

I was working in an orphanage – The National Baby and Children Center (NBC). The majority of the children are mentally and physically disabled. My work consisted of helping with the day to day running of the center and caring for the children. I was feeding, washing, changing nappies and giving the children lots of attention. I believe that giving the children attention is very important – many of the children can really smile when you spend some time with them.

Helping with the children Many of the care workers at the center can only can speak Khmer, the local Cambodian language. However, our conversations using sign language were never a problem, we managed to communicate easily. Even with the language barrier all the children got well cared for, they got the right food and medicine at the right time. In the mornings there was an English speaking woman working at the center. She knew everything about the children and she was more than happy to tell me all about each individual child. In the mornings and afternoons some of the children went to the play room. In the playroom there were always two dedicated women and some volunteers who would take care of the children and play with them. There were lots of toys, balls, mats and cushions for the children. The children also love to be taken for walks either on the big balcony at the center or, when it is possible, to the garden at front of the center.

NBC centre The Cambodian staff work sitting on the floor so I also found myself working, and playing with the children on the floor. It was so nice to do this.

I lived in the volunteer apartment with 8 other volunteers. It was a really nice place to be. All the Projects Abroad volunteers were very friendly and it was like one big family. There were always regular social events that all the volunteers were welcome to take part; these included quiz nights, scrabble evenings and often just a quiet night with a glass of wine on the apartment roof terrace.

With one of the local staff Everyday on the back of my driver’s motorbike on the way to my work placement I got to see the lives of the Cambodians as they went about their daily activities. It was very surprising. There were the market stalls with delicious fruit in so many different colors, the men and women standing on the side of the road trying to sell petrol in old coke bottles and all the laundry shops drying the clothes on the street. Often you could see motorbike drivers cleaning their motors in the water after a downpour and there was always the hectic and chaotic traffic all around you everyday. There was so much dust, heat and different noises and smells. This is all part of Phnom Penh city.

I spent my weekends in Phnom Penh. There is a lot to see and do in this city. I visited the Royal Palace and the National Museum one weekend and the impressive Tuol Sleng museum another weekend. I also attended a Khmer cooking class whilst I was in Cambodia; it was a really nice thing to do. The Russian Market is also a must – it is just full of colors, people haggling and lots souvenirs.

There is so much to do. I have really enjoyed my time in Cambodia.

Marlyn Smit-Hooftman

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