Our girls have learned on this trip that service work doesn’t necessarily have to feel like work. Our time helping with free community classes in Siem Reap was a perfect example of this. The girls played. They jumped rope. They read books, worked on puzzles, and helped with art projects. All in all, not a bad volunteer gig for a kid.
For the last couple weeks we’ve been spending a lot of time at Journeys Within Our Community, known locally as JWOC. Founded by the owners of a tour company and hotel, JWOC has been helping the community and connecting tourists to the needs of developing nations since 2005. The organization supports programs throughout Southeast Asia to improve living conditions through health, education, economic development, and emergency relief projects.
JWOC’s organizational model provides university scholarships to qualifying students, and in exchange these young people help run the organization’s programs. They teach free classes, assist with the microfinance program, and serve as field officers in the Clean Water project. This powerful model maximizes the local community’s involvement in the programs and gives JWOC a pipelines of knowledgeable, well-trained staff who truly understand the needs of their fellow citizens.
Our family’s first project with JWOC involved assisting with the free classes and helping children visiting the facility’s free community library. As usual, we took away more from the experience than we contributed. While helping kids use scissors and glue sticks during art class and reading books to them in the library, our girls learned once again how easy it is to make friends and have fun in a new place, regardless of language, background, or nationality.