While travelling overseas is a right of passage for many young people in Australia, Boorowa’s Claire Beath sees it as an opportunity to make the world a better place.
Claire has spent the last few months volunteering in Cambodia and said the experience has been life-changing.
“Volunteering, especially in a developing country, has always been something that has sparked interest for me,” Claire said.
“I have travelled quite a lot in my life, but I got to the point where I wanted to travel more for change and to make a difference.”
After a close friend suggested she work for volunteer organisation Reach Out Volunteers, Claire decided to take her ambitions to help others to the next level.
“This friend had suggested I apply for a job as an International Ambassador recruiting across Universities in Australia earlier this year,” she said.
“I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to Team Lead on our programs in Cambodia for three months.”
She said Cambodia ended up turning into the trip of a lifetime, noting the rich culture and the friendliness of the people.
“The Cambodian people are some of the most generous, kind and beautiful people on the planet even when they have close to nothing,” she said.
“Even after all their struggles, their happiness is contagious and really puts things into perspective as a westerner as to the real importances in life.”
She led 25 volunteers on projects such as working in schools and villages, helping at elephant sanctuaries, marine conservation and teaching English in Siem Reap and also on the island of Koh Long.
“We were working with rehabilitated elephants that have been rescued from the horrific conditions of the illegal logging industry and illegal street begging industry. We plant trees for their habitat and food, we feed them, we take them on walks through the amazing, dense Cambodian jungle, and we even take them down to waterholes to bathe them,” she said.
“All this work creates a safer happier life and encourages positive behaviours in these elephants who have been raised in horrific and torturous conditions.
“We also taught English to the local children and adults, built greenhouses and veggie patches, and also helped build a third water catchment to get the village community through dry season.”
She said everyone should take the opportunity to volunteer at least once in their life.
“You'll meet the most incredible people along the way, you'll make friends from all corners of the globe and have the most wonderful time getting your hands a little dirty to make a huge difference in this world.”