Meet Sharon - Volunteer story

One of the things we love most about our work is that we get to meet many people from all over the world that are passionate about the causes we support. They come to Sustainable Cambodia to share their skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise with all our Cambodian staff, students and teachers. Their work is invaluable and we are grateful for having them as part of the Sustainable Cambodia team.

And we want to introduce them to you! This week we want you to meet Sharon Sykora, from United States. She was in Pursat in January 2015 and coming back in November to volunteer again!

Tell us about yourself in a sentence
I am a retired Nurse Practitioner who feels strongly about “giving back” and also about challenging myself for continual growth.

What motivated you to volunteer in Cambodia?
I visited Cambodia about 10 years ago as a tourist and the country touched me in a way nowhere else ever had. I have been involved in supporting SC ever since through purchasing a well and sponsoring girls. So when I became able to volunteer in person, SC was the obvious choice.

Why did you choose SC instead of another organization?
Initially I was looking for an organization through which I could buy a well. SC came up when I googled it.  Through my years of involvement, I have been impressed with SC’s ethics and attention to detail.

What was your first impression when you arrived to SC?
Unfortunately, my first impression was not a good one. It was more “primitive” than I expected.  But within a couple of days, I lowered my expectations, considered it an adventure, and had a great time!  I hated to leave so much that I'm going back next month!

What did you find most challenging about volunteering at SC?
The food! Not enough protein!  I was continuously hungry for the first couple of weeks I was there, until I located some peanut butter and oatmeal. This next time, I'm bringing dehydrated food with me.

Tell us about some of the people you've met while volunteering.
There are so many!  I especially enjoyed coordinating with the Peace Corps volunteer in Pursat so we could help each other. Getting to know Yaru and Siep was wonderful.

What was your favourite project while volunteering at SC?
I don’t have a favourite.

What was the most rewarding experience while volunteering?
Learning that I can do it!  I'm more adaptable than I realized.  Learning that different isn't scary.  It’s just different. I could relax, enjoy myself, and grow in confidence and in understanding.

What is the best memory from your time at SC?
This is going to sound ridiculous, but my favourite part of the day was early each morning when I’d hear the children start to arrive at school about 6:50 AM.  I’d go out to the school yard to mingle with the children and to pick up trash on the ground, which was my excuse for being there.  Every morning a handful of students would help me clean up the yard.  I’d practice my Khmer with them and they would practice their English with me while we worked.  People laugh when I tell that that my favourite thing to do at SC was to pick up trash, but it WAS!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with SC?
Think “camping.”  Don’t expect nature to remain outdoors.  Don’t expect – or even hope- to improve the system or you will be disappointed and frustrated.  But you can help individuals.

If you are considering volunteering in Cambodia, you can visit our website to get more information about our Volunteer Program.


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