Taking a Leap - the whys and wherefores of international voluntary service

On 16 August, 2014, the Education Division organized a workshop for all PLD staff, volunteers, potential participants as well as guests to reflect on our endeavours in international volunteering services. At the workshop titled “Taking a Leap - the whys and wherefores of international voluntary service”, we were honoured by the presence of guest speakers from 3 different parties. The mere 2 hours allotted for the workshop were far from sufficient to represent all the work our guest speakers have done in the past years. Nonetheless, all participants were given an opportunity to learn about various forms and contexts of international voluntary services. There was also time to discuss visions, beliefs and the challenges in smaller groups.

The workshop was kicked off by the presentation from Ivan Leung, founder and chairman of Pathfinder. Pathfinder serves a school in Siem Reap by building toilets and renovation work in order to help them alleviate the problem of flooding during the rainy season. They have also conducted healthcare education workshop to the children at that school. As part of their fundraising campaign, they invited donors to create “Vocabulary Tiles,” which their feature wall. They also connect with local university students through cultural exchange activities.

Following the presentation of a project which is mainly engineering based, Meko Ng and Moo Chi Wai shared with us their work which is very different from ours in nature. They are both registered social workers and expressive art therapists. They rebuild people’s life through working with their minds and souls. Apart from their services in Sichuan after the 5.12 earthquake offering posttraumatic counselling service hotline, they recounted how they used expressive art therapy to help young victims of AIDS and human trafficking in a children’s home in Cambodia. Their unique expertise has given us insights into the different needs people have and the ways to serve. Although the gap between language and culture seems even more pronounced in their services, they’ve shown us the strength of expressive art therapy in overcoming such barriers and give the children space to express and heal through art.

Our final guest speaker, Michael Tang of CHEER gave us a presentation on his very diversified project. Their Cambodian project serves 3 orphanages and 1 school in Siem Reap, aiming to improve children’s mental and physical health. To wrap up the experience sharing session, our James presented on PLD’s three projects. The workshop then proceeded to a panel of discussion on the questions given to each participant at the beginning of the workshop. Albeit the differences between the projects, we are all faced with the problem of sustainability of our intervention and the expectancy of our respective organizations. On an individual level, everyone faces the question of why we chose to be involved in international volunteering services. It would take another 1000 words to capture the answers to these questions, but what our guest speakers’ generous and honest sharing of their struggles have definitely given our participants much to reflect upon. Perhaps for me, my take home message was: what little we have to offer, we do what we can for as long as we can.

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