I joined Original Volunteers Cambodia in August 2013 after graduated from University of Liverpool. I heard about this program from a friend in UK while I was studying abroad. The project that I joined in Cambodia is Hope Agency and it is coordinated by a local guy name Jason Han. I enjoyed my stay there teaching English in the school, doing voluntary paintings on the wall, visiting to nearby orphanage and food bank delivery to the needy families in the village. It was a once in a life time experience I would say. The most satisfying moment was I designed a two wall paintings on occupation and traveled to a local market which is 30 minutes away from the school just to buy paintbrushes, paints, and stationery as well as organizing a small class party during my last day at Hope Agency. I remembered paying GBP 150 as a contribution to Original Volunteers (though I am certain that such contribution goes into the OV Company and not helping the kids directly) and USD 4 per day to Jason Han upon arrival. That USD 4 includes accommodation, food that we can order anytime from the kitchen, clean water for drinking and toilet rolls. I miss my friends that I've made in the local village, the fun times teaching and playing with the kids and little bit of rice planting in the field every morning.
These memories made me to work on a fundraising event so that I can afford to visit back Hope Agency 2 years later. I was so grateful that the managing partner in the law firm that I worked at Malaysia decided to sponsor all 4 staffs (including myself) as a Corporate Social Responsibility Project on behalf of the firm. Thus on 19 October 2015, me and my other 3 colleague managed to outsource stationery, workbooks, 100 toothbrushes, toys, gifts, etc to bring along to Hope Agency. I believe that charity should be voluntary and can be contributed in any form either through time, or money. It should not be "imposed" on the volunteers on the minimum amount of donation in cash that we have to give nor the compulsory helping out with the plantations, construction sites or feeding the animals as according to the work instructed by the Project Director. In 2015, I felt like it's a military program where I must wake up at 8.00 AM to do the extra activity besides than teaching English as the core volunteering work in Hope Agency. In 2013, there's no such mandate on volunteers and I did the classroom painting out from goodwill. I was very disappointed when the Project Director insisted us to pay $250/ person upon arrival as contribution and said that the cash contribution is compulsory whereas all the stationery items donated are "very cheap stuff and can easily obtain from the local market". It was very ungrateful of him to say that as I was a returning volunteer. Besides the students do not brush their teeth everyday after class anymore (they used to have it in 2013). Furthermore, the contribution that we paid do not cover all 3 proper meals that I used to have back in 2013. It has changed into a pay as you order from the kitchen for meals besides dinner. Honestly, the dinner prepared wasn't a proper meal and I can get better food with cheaper price from the local market. I felt that something wasn't right whereby the cost of living has increased that much on volunteers. The Project Director even contacted some of the past volunteers whether they have plans of returning to Hope Agency and keep asking for cash contribution :( I felt pity for the kids as they have not benefit much from the contribution given by the volunteers, instead it was used to build more construction buildings, plantations around and purchase of goat,ducks, chickens in the school which will be sold off in the future. I did not enjoy my stay as much as I do in 2013 and will not recommend this place to new volunteers based on my real experience recently. Many volunteers had shorten their stay in Hope Agency after knowing how expensive is the cost upon arrival.