21 Nov When Ollie met Sophie – An Interview
The word on volunteer opportunities with EmbraceAbility is out! We are very lucky to be able to choose from a very talented pool of volunteer applications. It was an easy choice for us when Sophie’s CV flew into our inbox, and before we knew it she’d flown out from the UK to join the team in Cambodia. I sat down with her to find out how she was getting on:
Hi Sophie! Tell our readers a little about yourself.
Hey Ollie! I grew up in Devon and moved to Brighton to study at Sussex University. I read Anthropology and Development Studies. Since then I have been working in care; as a domiciliary carer, I worked as a PA for two women with disabilities, and I have worked in the charity sector helping people with disabilities with their access to direct payments. I have travelled Asia extensively, and now I’m back back for a six month trip spanning Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos among other. At home you’ll find me in out in nature, usually walking the dog.
What were your first impressions of Phnom Penh?
It’s like the Asia I know from previous travels. It’s noisy, busy, humid and colourful! There’s a lot of poverty alongside wealth and development.
What is your favourite local food?
My favourite food so far is the lemongrass vegetables cooked at Bomivoit Gardens on Koh Dach Island (a must visit!). The lady there cooks everything with fresh ingredients, and I will certainly be taking the recipe home!
What is your favourite Khmer word?
I like a lot of the Khmer words and phrases, although it takes a while for them to sink in. My favourite is probably ‘Bong’ which is used as a term of respect. It means ‘friend’, it’s polite, and it is used to reinforce relationships.
How important is it to raise the profile of disability care in Cambodia?
I think it is incredibly important. From what I have seen there is very little understanding of disabilities in Cambodia. Many of the families that we support have had little previous support or even an explanation of the disability that affects them. There are limited numbers of physiotherapists in Cambodia and occupational therapy is not formally recognised.
It’s a challenge to approach disability care here due to cultural differences, but it is vital to support people in their understanding of issues facing people with disabilities and how the community and services need to be adapted to suit their requirements.
How do you feel your skills translate to the EmbraceAbility model of sustainability?
My background in care work has enhanced my recording skills and adaptability in different situations. Positive change needs to be multifaceted and sustainable, so that when beneficiaries have had all the support they can have from a charity, they are able to continue with their therapies. This is how I have worked in previous roles, and this is how EmbraceAbility works.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
For me, the biggest challenge has been working in a cultural and family setting that is very different to what I am used to. The structure of services is also very different, and takes time to navigate.
What has been your experience of the development community in Phnom Penh?
In England I have found that charities are reluctant to work together. Here, the collaboration between NGOs is inspiring. I have met international and local organisations that are very willing to help one another and who very often go above and beyond the call of duty to do so. The work ethic is outstanding, especially considering the challenges they face.
Did you achieve all you wanted to during your time in Cambodia?
I wanted to experience and immerse myself in another culture, help the local people, and not simply be a tourist. I feel like I have achieved this with EmbraceAbility. You have to give yourself time to explore and experience a country, its people and its history. I am happy to say I have done all these things in Cambodia.
Thank you for your unfaltering work ethic Sophie! You have certainly gone above and beyond!
By Oliver King, Director of Advocacy