Hi I’m Keila Paul and I am a sister in the Delta class of Alpha Pi Phi Sorority’s Carleton chapter. I am a Social Work major, and as such, philanthropy is very important to me. Volunteering abroad has always been a goal of mine, but I found it quite challenging to find an organization that did not support “voluntourism”. After much research, I came across Operation Groundswell; a Toronto based organization whose mission is to “backpack with a purpose”. The values of this organization truly resonated with me, and in the summer of 2011, I spent 6 weeks volunteering throughout Thailand and Cambodia with 13 amazing, like-minded individuals.
Here is a brief outline of what my group, which was comprised of young adults from across Canada and the United States, accomplished:
- helping build bamboo houses for the community members of a remote hill tribe in Northern Thailand (4 out of their 7 homes had burned down in a recent fire)
- teaching English at various orphanages in Cambodia
- helping out in a Gender Studies class at a local university in Cambodia
- painting houses on the remote island of Koh Rong in Cambodia
- organising and running a leadership retreat for the youth mentors of Tiny Toones, a drop-in centre for street children in Cambodia
It is important to note that our accomplishments go much deeper than this brief list. The bonds that were created with local individuals will forever keep a part of me in Southeast Asia and it is my goal to one day return. In addition to all the volunteer work, we also had many opportunities for growth by exploring the rich Thai and Cambodian culture and history.
Painting local houses brightened everyone’s spirits will hopefully bring more tourists to the island of Koh Rong. Proud of a job well done, my two bosses and I take a well deserved break.
We may not speak the same language, but we found ways to communicate.
I look forward to this upcoming summer, when I will be travelling and volunteering with the same organization to East Africa.