Travel Confessions: Volunteer Rebecca Drury in Cambodia & India
Ever seen those ads on TV for children's charities and wondered what you could do to help? Queensland-based primary school teacher Rebecca Drury decided to head to Asia to find out. She took time off from her day job to volunteer in Cambodia with Real Gap Experience through Student Flights, and also teach English in India on a 4-month Asia trip that took in Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Nepal. Her volunteering stint fuelled her appetite for further adventure and she is now teaching Year 1 in a remote community in Far North Queensland. Here's Rebecca's take on her self-confessed adventure of a lifetime.
What made you decide to volunteer overseas?
I have always wanted to see more [of the world] and help others so I took leave to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, exploring other countries and offering my services to the children of the world. I travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Nepal. I worked in a childcare centre in Cambodia and also volunteered in India in an orphanage and the local slums.
What was your experience volunteering in Cambodia?
In the childcare in Cambodia, I taught a small group of children and helped out with the general running of the day. The children were so excited to see the volunteers every morning running out yelling: “Teacher, Teacher”. It would melt my heart and it definitely opened my eyes to the resilience of these beautiful children. Working in Cambodia was a shocking experience as every day you would drive through the slums to get to your destination. The devastation and poverty that I witnessed was indescribable. The bonds and the memories I created will stay with me forever and the experience has changed me more than I thought it would.
What did you do in India?
In India, I worked in an orphanage in the mornings and in the afternoon I worked in the slum teaching English. The two programs were vastly different. The orphanage was full of fresh-faced little children ranging from babies to 8 year olds. I took a small group of children for focused English lessons and played games. In the slums, I sat on the dirt floor of a lady's house and taught English and Maths. The wonderful people I taught there ranged from 13 to 30 years, all arriving each day ready to learn as much as they could. By the end of my time volunteering in India, I felt so at home and welcomed - I will definitely be returning to volunteer again.
Would you recommend volunteering overseas to others interested in taking a gap year?
I would highly recommend it to anyone who is open to new experiences. You need to enter these programs with an open mind and heart - acknowledging that you are not there to change these people’s lives, but to offer strategies and assistance that will be sustainable for their own lives.
What's the most important thing you learnt while volunteering in Asia?
As a teacher it is my passion to educate. I saw firsthand the challenges that these children overcome, while still managing to come to school with a smile on their faces. The most valuable component that a volunteer can give is time. The time to talk, listen and share your own experiences is a truly rewarding aspect. Most importantly, I learnt that selflessness is a vital piece to volunteering. The experience wasn’t about me - it was about the children and the community of people I was helping.
Would you recommend Real Gap Experience to others?
I have never done anything like this before and unfortunately never had a [traditional] gap year, as I went straight to university from high school. I believe taking a gap year to volunteer would be a fantastic idea and an even more rewarding experience. The people volunteering are all there for the same reason as you, and it provides you with an opportunity to meet like-minded people. Real Gap Experience was also so helpful in providing me with organisations that I knew were reliable and safe. The abundance of programs that are available is fantastic because you can volunteer almost anywhere in the world. I will definitely be volunteering again in the future using Real Gap as my reliable source to do so. The experience of volunteering definitely prepared me for this next chapter of my life!
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