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It all starts with one small step

Grainne O'Meara from Co. Offaly writes about why she decided to volunteer overseas with VSO Ireland. Grainne currently working as a Teacher Training Advisor in Bang Lung. 

I applied to VSO Ireland for a number of reasons - I wanted to do something different, to get involved in the area of development and capacity building, to challenge myself and set off on an adventure. Volunteering has always been on my to-do list, so I filled in the interest form on the VSO Ireland website and thought ‘sure we’ll see what happens’. I didn’t over-think it, just left it in the back of my mind. It was twelve months from when I first applied to when I set foot on the plane in Dublin and I think I needed that time to get used to the idea. 

I live in the provincial town of Ban Lung in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia’s most north-eastern corner. I live in a small one bedroom wooden house, which is on stilts! I share it with the local frogs and lizards. There are ten other volunteers from VSO and other NGOs in the town, so there is always someone to meet for dinner or drinks and a chat. We also head off on adventures on our motorbikes to explore our corner of Cambodia. We have a central market which is good for fruit and vegetables. We also have some luxuries such as Irish cheddar, Nutella, a pizzeria and an Indian restaurant! Ban Lung is quite a safe, flat town on a plateau so I cycle everywhere.

A typical day

My day begins with a ten minute cycle to work at 7.30 am until 5pm. My placement is slightly different to the other VSO education volunteers in the town (of which there are five, including me). They are based in the government’s provincial office of Education. My job is with an International NGO. called CARE, so I work in their office around the corner. 

My official title is Bilingual Teacher Trainer Advisor to the CARE’s teacher training and school governance teams. I work to support the teams in training to members of the Ministry, Provincial and District offices of Education. One day we are working on puzzles to promote creative thinking, the next we are discussing the best participatory approaches to use in training. It’s a very interesting job.

Sustainable change

The Cambodian ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) is adopting CARE’s ‘Bilingual Education’ Project to promote education for Cambodia’s most disadvantaged children: The indigenous tribes. I am creating the workshops and reference manuals for the Core Trainers of the Ministry to carry out the training. It’s a big task however I am encouraged that I will leave behind a useful tool that will be used in the provision of bilingual education to Cambodia’s most disadvantaged. I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work at the upper levels of implementation in Cambodia’s education system. You really see how change works on a national level. 

Making a difference

I leave in July but I know I will volunteer again. The experience is one of the most validating I have had. On a large scale, I feel proud to be part of making difference. On a smaller personal level I feel proud that I got on the plane! I still pinch myself every now and then just to check. To anyone who is thinking of volunteering, I say fill in the interest form, go to VSO’s open days. It all starts with one small step... Sure, see what happens!

Volunteer overseas with VSO Ireland

If you're interested in helping VSO Ireland to improve the lives of people living in poverty around the world, please take a look at our current volunteer vacancies.

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