How Social Engagement Has Helped Me Leave My Cocoon And Embraced My Potential
By Dara Chea
I’d say my life has drastically changed since I started volunteering. I have made a 180 -degrees turn, like transforming from an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful and colorful butterfly which spreads its wings in the blue sky.
Some people might overlook the hidden benefits of voluntary work, especially the older generation in Cambodia. Even my parents first blamed me and asked me why I liked to work for free, and did not get an office job instead? But things aren’t just mainly about money. Even though doing voluntary work doesn’t pay, it does provide numerous benefits, for young people in particular.
From my own experience, here are some interesting benefits I’ve gained from social engagement:
Before, I was a man of few words. I had known very few people before I started doing community service. I am different now thanks to my role as a youth ambassador in Klahan9 (Brave9), which is a multimedia project by BBC Media Action and ASEAN Youth Leaders Association Cambodia (AYLA Cambodia) with a focus on youth employment. AYLA Cambodia is a youth association aiming to provide a platform for young Cambodian leaders to transform their ideas into actions.
Through these unique opportunities, I have met many different kinds of people, from celebrities to social workers in governmental, non-governmental and the private sectors. I remember my father saying, “Networking is absolutely essential for you because you can get sources of information quickly.” On top of that, it may also help increase your chances to land a job after you graduate, too.
Gain Knowledge and Skills
©United Nation Volunteers Cambodia/2018
I have gained a lot of new knowledge regarding current issues in the society from volunteering since I am exposed to extensive training. For example, from joining the Counter Trafficking In-Persons Training with Winrock International, I learned about human trafficking which is something I’ve never learned at school.
I have to admit that I was previously shy and had a hard time meeting new people. Since I involved myself as a volunteer in many events, ranging from a facilitator in workshops and festivals, to a youth ambassador in such projects, I’ve got the chance to improve my self-development skills. I am changing myself into the new version of me since I am meeting regularly with a group of like-minded people. I have learned how to behave and interact with people from various statuses, particularly in a professional manner.
Besides, I have also built and improved my leadership skills. One thing I love about voluntary work the most is teamwork. Often you do not realize how much potential you have until you work in a team. Volunteering helps you to unleash your hidden talent in the area. Obviously, the field work does provide me with those skills. I’ve learned to work in a team and share responsibility with my colleagues in order to conduct the training successfully.
Through these golden opportunities, I have acquired tremendous skills, including communication, teamwork, problem solving, time management, and project management or coordination. Personally I believe these are important skills used in workplace.
As Mr. Veasna Ky, the president of ASEAN Youth Leaders Association – Cambodia said: “You benefit the society while you build yourself with knowledge, skill, and credibility.”
I can never forget all the challenges my teammates and I have encountered. It is common for us to ride, under the burning sunlight or even in the rain. Sometimes, we would also ride on bumpy and muddy roads, passing by hundreds of acres of farmland. Then, there are the unexpected moments, like having a flat tire on our motorbike kilometers away from the community, or even skipping meals due to the very tight schedule of the trip.
From these experiences, I have gained important life skills, including flexibility and problem solving. I have also developed a sense of belonging to the community and with the people I work with. I have learned to adapt to a new environment, where most of my teammates are younger than me. It was hard at the beginning, until I stayed and shared rooms with them, and eventually got along with them. Now, we feel like siblings regardless of gender, family status, or educational background.
I bet you that not only will you learn basic life skills, such as cooking , washing clothes, making the bed, and so on, you will also learn how to adapt and communicate with people from different walks of life. Sure, living outside the family can be hard, so you have to be open-minded. Like one famous Khmer saying goes: “ At home a different mother, in the jungle the same mother.” This means that you have to love each other as siblings, even though you’re not, so that when you’re in need, others can give you a hand.
Help Your Country
When I first went to the rural areas in Cambodia, I was startled to see the difficult living conditions of the people there. Some families lived in small houses with too many members. Their living conditions, with problems such as lack of water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.
Witnessing this, inspired me to push myself to contribute whatever I possess to my fellow Cambodian people. This has been my only goal since I was young — to help out other people who are in desperate need. I am so glad that I have the chance to help my country through training rural residences on how to seek job opportunities and how to have a safe migration.
It’s really awesome to have a chance to share my experiences and knowledge with others, and especially help to empower young and low-educated people. Life is so fresh and meaningful when you can help others to live better. It really helps me build more confidence and a better sense of being.
I bet you that if you do not step out of your comfort zone, you will never realize the differences between your own life and others’. This is why I believe getting yourself involved in community service is one of the most valuable work where you can make real impacts on the society. It’s a great idea if you wish to help solve social issues and boost the development of the country.
©Joint of Youth – Cambodia/2017
“You don’t always need a logical reason for doing everything in your life. Do it because you want to, because it’s fun, because it makes you happy.”
Volunteering gives me a lot of fun in life. When I went on a field trip with my colleagues to conduct the training in the community, we shared a lot of memories. It was the most memorable moment in my life. I cannot forget all the shared activities we enjoyed together, whether it was a group discussion, planting trees, or collecting the garbage. Particularly, I find it as the craziest time having a small gathering together after completing the field work. Things like taking photos or selfies with my mates and sharing them on social media are the most unforgettable moments that I don’t want to end.
It doesn’t matter if you start with a small project, whether it is a small social activity with your classmates, like an environmental campaign to raise awareness for waste management in your school or a community service in the province. You can surely have a fun and fulfilling time.
“Do small things with great love.”
I have long admired and appreciated Mother Teresa for her valuable contributions during her lifetime to humankind. Her work makes me understand the real value of voluntary work.
Volunteerism does provide me with a lot of knowledge that I don’t learn inside school. I have gained plenty of knowledge and experiences from social engagement, including the knowledge of social issues, self-development skills, and other life lessons. And at the same time, I can make some contributions to my country. Of course, you alone cannot solve all the world’s problems, but you can make a small corner of the world you live in just a bit better. I highly encourage you to take a look at voluntary work and do it. Your small contributions could mean a lot to the people in need out there. Even drops of rain could fill the ocean.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.