Hello, Goodbye

Prior to leaving for this trip, I was struggling with the idea of a three-week placement. Lecomte (2004) says that, “ultimately, it becomes an issue of determining whose interest is prioritised when these exchanges are established.” With an emerging scholarly interest into the effects of short term volunteering, this question is still under debate and an answer unclear.

The challenge for Matt and I has been in establishing an outcome to incorporate the required skills that the students we are working with need in order to remain in and develop the local Cambodian Arts sector within such a limited time. Rough (2011 p. 3) suggests that, “organizational capacity building adds to the ability of social service organizations to achieve their mission and goals, and to meet the needs of clients.” To this end we are proposing an event idea to our host Seng in order to address the aims of CLA and the students as individuals.

My attempt at teaching instrument types and the difference between wind and breath (excuse the drawings!)

The students that we are working with (aged 28, 34 & 36) have limited skills in the use of written and spoken English. This makes the 2-3hr daily lessons a slow process. Whilst research has strived to highlight the problematic influences of Western “Over the past 30 years social work writers have been trying to raise awareness of the dominance of Western influences on social work and have been stressing the need for social work in the developing world to free itself from the in-built assumptions and cultural biases of first world theories and models of practice (Gray & Fook 2004 p.3).” For us, a Westernized model is all that we know.

Optimized-pri pon 2
Pri and Pon working on their presentation skills through the use of capacity building and Pri playing the Sre Ley

To this end are we rather perpetuating the demonstration effect, which “consists of host population emulation of the behaviour and especially the consumption practices of the tourists who visit them (Moore 1995 p. 302).” Or are we providing transferrable skills that (even though they may be Westernized) will empower these students beyond our three-week placement?

Whilst I have no doubt that organisations like CLA will continue to grow, expand and meet their vision, I am left with the uncertainty of how these students will continue to capacity build. There are no aims or objectives for them individually nor a structured plan of how to achieve this. Typ one of our students said that he likes it when volunteers stay to see a tree grow or a house built and whilst we may take this literally his insight is quite profound and philosophical. At this stage, I am inclined to agree that, “short-term international volunteer placements may benefit volunteers more than host communities (Rough 2010 p. 3).”


Gray M & Fook J (2004) The Quest for a Universal Social Work: Some Issues and Implications, Social Work education, Vol. 23, No. 5, October 2004, p.625-644, FairFax Publishing

Lecomte, C (2004) Volunteering and Local Development Projects in Developing Countries, E-International Relations [Online] Available at: http://www.e-ir.info/2014/11/22/short-term-volunteering-and-local-development-projects-in-developing-countries/ [Accessed 24 June 2015]

Lough B, McBride A, Sherraden M & O’Hara K (2010) Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organisations, Center for Social Development [Online] Available at: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236962039_Capacity_building_contributions_of_short-term_international_volunteers [Accessed 24 June 2015]

Moore R (1995) Gender and alcohol use in a Greek Tourist Town, Annuals of Tourism Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 300-313, 1995, Peramon

Rough B, McBride M, Sherraden M &O’Hara K (2010) Capacity Builiding Contributions of Short-Term International Volunteers, Journal of Community Practice, April 2011; 19:120-37 [Online} Available at: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/236962039_Capacity_building_contributions_of_short-term_international_volunteers [Accessed 25th June 2015]


1 Comment

  1. Volunteering full fills both sides of the equation.
    Ie you will receive satisfaction(even though you may not think so now) when you arrive home why not enquire of volunteers who have been serving society for many as I am sure their response will be a positive one.
    Then seek out recipients and they will undoubtably confirm this.
    Keep up the good work


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