I volunteered with KIDS international for a week in Cambodia in February 2013, just one month before my 18th birthday. Not only was this the perfect time to venture out of my comfort zone and do something I had never done before but I truly believe that it has changed my life forever. As a senior in high school, I was ready for an adventure and I definitely got one.
Before going to Cambodia I had only been to the resort-y parts of Mexico and the Bahamas so going to a developing country in Asia was all completely new for me. After getting over the initial culture-shock I was able to learn so much about the tumultuous history and rich culture of Cambodia. I even learned quite a few words in their language, Khmer, which came in handy when working with the children.
Getting to directly help children and see firsthand the difference I can make was something absolutely priceless. Seeing the conditions that many of the kids lived in shocked me and broke my heart. Most kids would come in with dirty clothes, no shoes, and rotting teeth. I have seen images of poverty and poor living conditions on TV and documentaries but nothing compares to seeing it in person. Despite what they lacked, they were the bravest, sweetest, and most beautiful children I have ever met. I fell in love with their smiles and amazing spirits.
Throughout all this, I got to work with and meet some of the most incredible and admirable people I have ever met including Purobi and Dr. Bob. They have inspired me with their passion and effectiveness in bringing dental care to underprivileged kids. I am forever grateful to them for providing such a wonderful opportunity for students. My experience in Cambodia challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It helped me grow as a person and taught me life lessons that I won’t soon forget. I know that whatever I do in the future, I want to help people, travel, and make the world a better place. Putting a smile on a child’s face is the best and most rewarding feeling I have ever felt in my life so I look forward to volunteering with KIDS again.
~ Ellia, Alamo, CA, USA