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Volunteering - an anti-aging exercise

Mary Knox has just returned from volunteering in Cambodia for two years. Mary was a retired primary teacher and found new adventures volunteering overseas with VSO. Here Mary reflects on her time away.

"When I arrived in Cambodia 26 months ago I was one of a group of 22 volunteers, ranging in age from 20 to 70 years. I expected the younger people would stick together socially. It was a lovely surprise to discover that nobody noticed age, we were all volunteers. From the start I was included in all activities. Most days I received texts ‘See you at 6’, ‘Coffee?’ or ‘We’re meeting for a drink at - see you there’ from girls young enough to be my granddaughters.

I soon found that skills learned as a student teacher many years ago, and long out-of-date in our hi-tech schools in Ireland, are exactly what developing countries need. I found this comforting and encouraging. In the average school electricity is unknown, slates and chalk or paper and crayons are luxuries used with enthusiasm by children previously expected to sit quietly and just listen. Laughter comes easily to children here, it’s heartwarming to see how they enjoy the old playground games like ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf?’, translated of course. It’s easy to forget your age when you travel by motorbike or play hopscotch!

Waking up every morning to clear blue skies also puts a spring in your step. While I’m not saying it’s all fun and games, I do miss the comforts of home from time to time, volunteering has been a memorable experience that I can honestly recommend as an anti-aging exercise.

I feel years younger, let’s hope returning to Ireland does not turn me into ‘Rip Van Winkle.’"

Interested in volunteering overseas? 

Follow in Mary's footsteps and check out our latest vacancies now.

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