writing on notebook

Ellen Murphy’s volunteering experience with OIC Cambodia

Feb 28, 2016

In 2014, I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where I began a teaching certification program and teaching job. I taught all subjects of fourth grade to my two classes of Khmer students. I knew coming to Cambodia, I additionally wanted to find an internship in development preferably related to public health. Since I was working full time teaching, I knew it may be challenging to find an organisation that would accommodate my schedule as I would only be able to contribute work during atypical business hours.

My preference was to work with an organisation related to public health, but I was more focused on and valued more greatly finding an organisation with an ethical development strategy. With the prevalence of corrupt volunteerism in Cambodia and the developing world, I was uncertain of how to find an organisation that was helping and not hurting the community. Because I was new to Cambodia and was not a seasoned expat aware of many credible organisations, I began doing research on ethical volunteerism in Cambodia.

In my research, I came across an article written by Daniela Papi-Thornton, an advocate for ethical volunteerism in Cambodia and founder of PEPY Tours, an organisation that leads educational tours in developing countries. Thornton’s article resonated with me, so I contacted her and asked for recommendations of credible organisations in Phnom Penh. That is when she referred me to OIC Cambodia.

Ellen teaching English to her students

I was intrigued by OIC right away because of their link to public health and focus on both communication and swallowing disabilities. I discovered there are many different types of people who need speech therapy. Some suffer from road accidents that often inhibit their speech and affect their swallowing ability. Others are born with cerebral palsy that can make speech challenging. OIC showed me that communication and swallowing disabilities are real public health and health safety issues.

I contacted Weh Yeoh and the OIC team to discuss internship opportunities. In our meeting, Weh shared with me more about OIC’s thoughtful development plan. From my own research and discussion with Weh, I learned about the obvious need for speech therapy in Cambodia. Because of the lack of speech therapists and lack of speech therapy training programs in Cambodia, OIC has been working to implement a self-sustaining, ethical speech therapy program that can eventually be run by Cambodians and not be dependent on foreign aid.

Weh and the OIC team were understanding of the time I was able to commit to OIC. They asked about my previous public relations experience and degree in English and listened to me when I explained the skills I could contribute and I wanted to develop. They used my skill set coupled with their communications need to develop an internship position for me.

As a member of the OIC communications team, I have conducted research for new marketing strategies, edited fundraising content and developed promotional content. OIC has been receptive to any questions I have had about projects along the way and has been appreciative of the work I have contributed. I am fortunate to work on a compassionate team where my professional development has been valued while I have contributed to the OIC mission.

by Ellen Murphy