As an American living and working in central China, I experience moments of culture shock almost every day. Something as simple as buying eggs at the supermarket usually involves excited locals taking photographs and introducing themselves with the few English words they know.
When I flew to Cambodia to volunteer with Kids International Dental Services, I expected that kind of experience. I had heard that Cambodians were friendly, but I didn’t expect so many smiling, young faces. I didn’t expect so many locals genuinely happy and excited to meet all the scrub-wearing Westerners.
Because I was one of the few volunteers with no dental school experience, I got to interact with the Cambodia children in a non-tooth-pulling capacity, helping with fluoride, education, the post-op room, or crowd control. At each village, I was amazed by how brave the kids were, how very warm and friendly they were even in the face of dental work. It was a pleasure to meet them, as well as work with all the talented volunteers, both Cambodian and international.
Working for a week with “KIDS” is exhausting, but it also feels much too short. As soon as the trip ended, I started to miss all the people I met. “KIDS” is a great organization, one that makes truly positive changes in the villages they visit. Every “KIDS” volunteer should expect to experience culture shock. They’ll be shocked by the warm, inviting culture… shocked by the fun and excitement… and shocked that they didn’t volunteer sooner.
~ Evan, Xifeng, China