Written on: 31/01/2012 by Msafadi (1 review written)
I’m not very good at writing reviews, or writing in general, but I’m going to try to make it as honest and useful as possible, I hope you find it helpful.
I had originally booked a 3 week hospital placement (with Frontier, the project name was: Cambodia Community Health Outreach Work) in Samraong, Cambodia. I was picked up at the airport by a very friendly co-ordinator, who continued to be very friendly and helpful for the duration of the experience. The home stay was much nicer then I was expecting it to be; it was clean, the beds were comfortable, the family living in the home stay were amazingly friendly and all the other volunteers really enjoyed the food (I didn’t, however I’ve never been a fan of East Asian cuisine). But I wouldn’t let that put you off, there is a “corner” shop that’s a 10 sec walk away from the dinner table that sell snacks and drinks, and if you do spend your weekends in Siem Reap (a large tourist city a 2 hour drive away from the home stay), which I recommend you do, there are loads of restaurants that sell amazing food; my personal favourite was Curry Walla, a delicious and halal option.
The hospital experience was very interesting, I spent most of the time following doctors on rounds and whenever there was a surgery, was allowed to observe; and I even got to help the nurses change the dressing on a patient. However if you are going and expecting to make a difference to the patients lives, you will be disappointed. But if you’re like me and are just doing it for the experience and the opportunity to see some amazing stuff that you won’t get too see in developed countries, it’s worth it. Also the coordinators are very flexible and helpful, and after two weeks at the hospital I asked if I could switch my placement to the orphanage, where the other volunteers at the home stay were working and about to leave, this was another unique and amazing experience. There are around 25 kids at the orphanage but you only teach and hang around with roughly 10 of them, I’m going to be super honest here and say that they are nothing like the spoilt children (yes that includes me when I was young) you usually see in developed countries, they are the friendliest kids you’ll meet and really intelligent and so you get a real sense of accomplishment when you finish each lesson. I would really recommend spending at least a week at the orphanage (even though the hospital experience was amazing).
On a more touristic note, Cambodia is a beautiful country with a deep history and culture, which as you’d expect means they have some truly amazing architecture, specifically Angkor Watt and the surrounding temples, which I was told by a guide was a wonder of the world (later disproven by Wikipedia), but the fact that it’s not one of the wonders is irrelevant, it is the second most magnificent man made structure I have ever seen, and I travel a lot. The first goes to the floating village, an hour away from Siem Reap; swimming in the village was one of the best experiences of my life.
I would definitely and highly recommend this experience to someone who wishes to study medicine; it’s an invaluable life experience and gives you loads to talk about when you get back, especially useful for interviews, however I think the hospital placement should be supplemented with the orphanage experience, as it allows you to meet some amazing people and you will leave feeling like you accomplished something positive. However for people who have already got there degree, I would only recommend the orphanage placement, as you will not have any impact on patients at the hospital; but if you are in it too see another culture, that’s immensely interesting and different, then the experience is worth it.