This blog is a discussion with Chakreya Bout, a freelance workshop facilitator for Ayana Journeys based in Phnom Penh. Chakreya joined our team to support with the delivery of our pioneering Responsible Volunteering and Travel workshops for World Challenge. She currently also works with VSO, the world’s leading development charity fighting poverty through volunteers.
My name is Chakreya and I am a graduate of Tourism and am currently working on VSO’s Responsible Volunteering Project. I have completed volunteer assignments for VSO Cambodia both locally and internationally over the last two years. This journey began in 2016 when I joined VSO’s International Citizenship Service (ICS) Programme, a cross-cultural youth volunteering programme, where teams of 20 young people from the UK and Cambodia working alongside each other in a community for 3 months. I worked on an Inclusive Education Project with rural Cambodian schools. Following this I joined an international programme entitled ‘’Initiative of Mobility of Volunteering Empowering Change in Asia’’ (iMove) in India for 10 weeks, working with a women’s self-help group. When I returned to Cambodia I volunteered with the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport’s Youth Centre to strengthen and promote youth volunteering, with a view to enhance youth employability.
I have a big passion to help make sustainable impact within the volunteering industry, and in promoting responsible tourism in general. My current role with VSO’s Responsible Volunteering Project raises awareness about possible harms of voluntourism, and facilitates the uptake of best practice in volunteering for development. My work focuses on capacity building, awareness raising, campaigning, and developing knowledge-products to improve the understanding of responsible volunteering in Cambodia, and respond to the changing context in the development sector.
I want to influence people to understand the issue in an easy way, especially to Generation Z. An example is our film called “Think Before You Volunteer” (below) which shows some of the pitfalls of not preparing before volunteering overseas. Not all volunteering is impactful and responsible, and some well-intentioned volunteers can inadvertently do more harm than good.
Aside from my role at VSO I have also become a Facilitator for Ayana’s workshops on ethical travel and volunteering. I am able to combine my background in tourism and volunteering, and I couldn’t be more excited to represent the voice of this issue and to share it with more people…
- Why is responsible volunteering important in Cambodia?
Development is a complex and continuous process that empowers people and communities to fight disadvantage and take control of their own future. Responsible volunteering is a new concept to get volunteers to think about the impact they (can) make, whether their impact is sustainable, and to ensure that volunteer activities cause no harm in the communities. As a developing country, volunteering activities could mean a lot to help communities in Cambodia, but at the same time volunteers need to ensure they do not create dependency, and it is vital projects motivate local people to be accountable for their own future.
- The first time you saw the Ayana workshop on responsible volunteering, what did you like and what did you learn?
The workshops incorporate a sense of ‘Khmerness’, and as well as sharing knowledge on how to be a responsible traveller and volunteer, the sessions include fun traditional games and interactive activities. The style allows the students to get out what they put in and share it among their peers. The best part of the workshop prepares students to become more confident to talk about the harmful effects of some volunteering and identify how to be a responsible traveller and how to communicate that with their friends. At each workshop I learn from every individual participant, and enjoy learning about their different motivations to join the expedition and their commitment to challenging themselves so they can make a positive impact in the community they visit, whilst maintaining realistic expectations.
- Now you are facilitating some workshops, what do you like about working with students on this topic?
I am so grateful to be able to work with the students and talk to them about responsible travel and volunteering, I like opening up an honest conversation to explore the issue and find out what is the best for everybody and create a mission to achieve this together. The workshop is the beginning of the future in the travel and volunteering sectors, and we are all looking forward to see the maximum impact of our hard work!