One of my main responsibilities as Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Cambodia has been to manage the creation of Peace Corps Cambodia’s social media presence. As part of Peace Corps’ new recruitment initiative of allowing recruits more choice in where they want to serve, each post has been tasked with creating a post-specific website to highlight the unique work that Volunteer do in that country.
After months of work alongside of Peace Corps Cambodia staff, our website has finally gone live! On our site you can read about Cambodia, our programs, donate to projects, and read blog posts and other stories of Peace Corps Cambodia Volunteers in action.
Please take some time to check out these new sites and read about what makes Peace Corps Cambodia so special.
Countryside Class in Battambang Province, the school that I work closely with, has a new project they’re trying to start: an environment awareness campaign, community clean up, and ongoing community recycling. However, they need help in the form of $380 to get started. Please contact me or Sambath if you want more information about the project or are interested in donating. Thanks!
Peace Corps Volunteer Campaign, 1968
Why I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer
Peace Corps focuses on relationships. Of its three main goals, two are about the results of those relationships. It’s about making this world smaller, about connecting people and places.
I knew nothing about Cambodia when I received my invitation to serve here with Peace Corps, barely even knew it was a country. If I had ever been taught about the Khmer Rouge, I didn’t remember. I stepped off the plane in Phnom Penh full of ignorance but excited to learn.
And I have learned. But more than that, I have loved. I love the people I have met. I love my host family, my work colleagues, my friends, and even my breakfast seller. So when I’m asked when I’m going home and fellow Americans express shock that I could want to stay in Cambodia past my tenure with Peace Corps, I ache. I ache because if I’m getting that question and receiving that surprise, then I haven’t done my job.
Honestly, I doubt my Bachelor’s degree in English Literature can make much of a development difference in Cambodia. But I hope that it can help me put my love for these people into words, to make this world a bit smaller and connect my American family and friends with my Cambodian family and friends. That’s why I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Elie Wiesel, a survivor of a different genocide, posits that peace is found in relationships: “We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”
Cambodia has been experiencing protests and has had a strong minority of Senate seats unfilled due to those protests since July. I’d wager that not many Americans are aware of that. This world is a large place, and we all end up picking and choosing to whom to extend our attention and empathy. The remaining places are merely ‘the other,’ an abstraction of a place in the world where we barely blink an eye when someone is hurting.
And while I understand these limitations on empathy, I still rage against them. Because when a place – and the people in that place – becomes that ‘other,’ we begin to fail at ‘recognizing the humanity in others,’ at ‘seeing the dignity in every other human being everywhere’ (Desmond Tutu; Kurt Vonnegut).
My Peace Corps experience - my purpose in being here with this agency - is to bring Cambodia to life for my fellow Americans, to ensure that Cambodians get some small measure of Americans’ attention and empathy. To bring my love for these people, this place, to life through stories and pictures. My goal is to have you look into their eyes and realize that these people are not abstractions. They are mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and neighbors and friends and lovers. They are flawed. They are beautiful. They are not projects or objects for the charity of pity. They are human beings the same as you and me.
My hope is that you can love them through me and that that love will change the way you live.