Global Service Scholar: Qanita Jaleel
Country: Cambodia

The biggest takeaway from this experience is that there’s no right or wrong way to live life, and that giving up should not be an option. Before going to Cambodia I had a whole list of ideas on how I could help and improve their quality of life, I was merely looking at what was different between how I live and how Cambodians live as if my way of life was the correct way. Once I arrived in Cambodia I was exposed to a new culture, food, religion, and way of life.

Life in Cambodia is a whole lot different than life in America. One thing I really noticed and admired is that everything is up for discussion. Living in America I feel as though we are sheltered from uncomfortable discussions such as poverty, starvation, and homelessness whereas in Cambodia everything is up for discussion, they do not hide their problems instead they face it every day fighting to better their lives.

To Cambodians, nothing is off-topic and they are willing to talk about the problem and find a solution. There’s no division of class between the rich and the poor, while working in the Treak Community Centre, the head teacher would clearly list what was wrong and would actively try to learn and create a better community to live in. In Cambodia if people don’t have a home to live in they build their own, they don’t just wait for someone to help them, they go out and try to find a solution for themselves.

After the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia was left in shambles but they contentiously try to fight for a better future for themselves because they know if they don’t nobody will come to their aid and that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience. No matter how hard life gets there’s always another day to fight and make it better than the day before. Their positive outlook and willingness to not give up is the biggest takeaway. For example, while working in the Treak Community Centre we built bricks out of non-recyclable plastic which allowed for a better way to get rid of the plastic waste in the community. Even after much hardship, they are willing to create sustainable ways to live, not just something for the time being, a permanent solution that will help in more ways than one.

This experience has opened my eyes and showed me that no matter how hard our struggles may seem there is always a solution, there is always room for good.