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Semester in Review… The Traveling Volunteer

By heatherlgilbert

My biggest advice for finding promising community service while traveling is simple; stay alert, be aware of your surroundings and go outside your comfort zone. By following these three simple guidelines my winter break was transformed from an outside tourist glimpse into an eye opening experience.

Community service can be found anywhere doing just about anything. During my winter break, as I traveled through Asia, I spent time participating in community service efforts in Cambodia. Traveling away from tourist areas to view another lifestyle and meet locals was the most valuable part of my trip.

My first blog is dedicated to the people I met in the floating village on Tonle Sap Lake. These incredibly strong and genuine people move three times a year, each move coinciding with the lake’s changing water level. They live a third of the year on the lakeshore, a third of the year in the center of the lake and another third close to the surrounding mountains. Income comes from one source, fishing. Most of my time on the lake was spent with the local children. Starting my first day, I brought a sack of rice and lollypops. As I handed them out to the kids they folded their arms across their chest and nodded before digging into the bag of treats. I learned that this gesture means thank you. Every moment I spent on Tonle Sap is unforgettable and now it is my turn to cross my arms and nod my head. Thank you.