Hello everyone! My name is Jen Maler and I was the GROW Coordinator this past summer. My time with the Trailblazer Foundation is something that I will never forget and I thank GlobeMed for giving me this opportunity. I found out about GlobeMed last November when I was walking through the Union. I had always wanted to go overseas and volunteer but could never afford it or have the time. I met the old president Carolyn and told her that I was going. She didn't believe me at the time- but here I am to tell my story!
GlobeMed is one of those organizations that really does go the extra mile. Everyone in the organization truly wants to make a change for the greater good. With the large amount of chapters all over America working with different partners throughout the entire world; one can really see the impact that we are making. We are partnered with a nonprofit called the Trailblazer Foundation that works in Siem Reap, Cambodia. They have several focuses but the one that we worked one while we were there was their water sanitation project as well as implementing a feasibility study pertaining to agriculture. La, another student at IU, and I went together. Our adventures there are something that I will never forget.
We lived in Siem Reap, Cambodia for one month working with the Trailblazer Foundation every weekday. Some days were longer than others but they were all unforgettable. We started early in the morning, waking up as the sun started to rise around 6am. We had breakfast at our hostel and headed to work. I ran every day to get a workout in- sometimes La would join me while other days he chose to take a tuk tuk to work. Tuk tuks are one of the main ways of transportation in Siem Reap- there are not that many cars there. The run was a couple of miles but it got me ready to go! I got to the Trailblazer Foundation, rinsed off, and got to work. Usually we worked with the same people: Vichet, and Suyheng mainly as well as other volunteers that came and went from other organizations, like Bamboo. We would build four water filters every day, sift sand and gravel for the filters, mix concrete, and paint the filters. Other days we worked in the gardens pulling weeds or preparing the gardens for planting. Once or twice a week we got to go to the villages and install the water filters ourselves. We would install on average 14 water filters a week. One day La and I accompanied some of the boys and helped install a well!
Going to the villages was my favorite part of my time in Cambodia. We would all pile up in the back of the Trailblazer’s truck and head off. The Trailblazer Foundation works with a ton of villages in the Siem Reap province- some closer than others. The farthest we went to during our time there took about an hour to get to. The scenery on the way there was spectacular. When we got to the villages we would meet with the village chief and he would accompany us to each house; where we were introduced to the entire family and installed the filter in their home. Around lunch time we would break for lunch and have a home-cooked meal at the village chief’s house. I am vegan and they were so kind to accommodate for me. We would have rice, vegetables, and a meat dish for everyone else. After the meal we would each pay a small amount to thank them for their generous hospitality.
Being the GROW Coordinator was a great leadership experience. You are expected to plan the entire trip and work with Chris (one of the founders) throughout the entire school year. On the ground you are expected to make sure a blog is written and the PAF is completed by the due date the following school year. I was able to establish a wonderful relationship with Chris, Tom, Ratanak, and the other employees of the Trailblazer Foundation. It may sound like a lot of work and responsibility but it is completely manageable! I was pre-med in school, worked at a restaurant, was GROW Coordinator, and still had time for friends! It looks great on a resume as well!
Siem Reap is a tourist town so you get your dose of westerners as well. Because it is a tourist town, there is every kind of food that you can imagine. The markets are filled with souvenirs- you can get as many things with an elephant on it as your heart desires. Siem Reap has a lot of cool attractions as well- such as Angkor Wat. La, Luke, Tom, and I (friends we made during our time there) all got up at 3:45 in the morning to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. It was amazing!!! We spent the whole day wandering through the ancient ruins. Other things we did over there? We explored many temples, went quad biking through rice fields, dancing in the local clubs (but not too wild of course! ;)), trying all sorts of delicious food, and making friends that we will never forget. After my time in Cambodia, I went to KL (capital of Malaysia) to visit one of my friends.
Now I am still traveling- I am currently in Miri, Borneo! I was lucky enough to be chosen as a GFHP-II grantee, meaning that GlobeMed helped me pay for my trip. I cannot thank them enough. If you are trying to decide whether or not you want to apply to be the GROW Coordinator or to be an intern, DO IT. This experience is something that I will never forget and it changed me for the better. I urge you to go- don’t be scared! Trust me- I was nervous when I left too but it is good to get out of your comfort zone every once in awhile- it helps you grow.
If you have any questions or want more info- feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to hear more about my time in Cambodia or my recent adventures- check out GlobeMed’s blog or mine! Although I am really bad at writing new posts…
My Blog: wanderlustdiver.wordpress.com
GlobeMed Love, Jen