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Leaving Koh Pdao

Today was an early start for our last morning in Koh Pdao as we had a long travel day ahead of us. Our breakfast consisted of french toast and barbecue grilled chicken, which had to be our two favourites, made by our wonderful chef here on the island. After breakfast it finally came time to say goodbye to our homestay families. Everyone was gathered around the community centre, from kids to grandparents, enjoying our last few moments together. Now reflecting back on the entire homestay experience, I believe it to be one of, if not the most, important and groundbreaking aspects of the trip thus far – especially when it comes to the service component. Having travelled to a remote island in rural Cambodia, and living as a local for the past 5 days, we have truly been allowed to understand the country, culture,  and people on another level. Throughout our time here in Cambodia, our group has been discussing the topic of “voluntourism”, which our trip falls under, and whether it does more harm than good. Immersing ourselves in this community by taking part in a homestay experience really allowed us to understand what was necessary in terms of a service project, how it would help, and who exactly it would be helping. Not only did all of us greatly benefit from the homestay experience, but it also brought new culture and customs to the families themselves, and help them put faces to the people who were able to help fund and work on the projects. The fact that both parties were able to benefit from this experience is very important and therefore assures us that our volunteer work will cause lasting benefits rather than destruction. It was amazing to see all the kids and family members wearing all the Canada gear we gave them as gifts as we were heading off.  Our group finally made it onto the two boats that would transport us from the island onto the mainland. The families persistently waving from the beach until we were out of sight was amazing to see, and will definitely be a lasting memory of mine from this entire trip.