“I want to be strong, I want to help myself”

I’m back in Siem Reap for two weeks before I go to Indonesia because I’ve learned that if I am taking a break from some of the adventure activities, I’d much rather be with friends than spending time alone as a backpacker or mingling with other travelers coming and going every few days. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the company and connection of everyone I’ve met. It’s just nice to have a bit of stability for some time, especially when I feel right at home in Cambodia.

The minute I’ve come back to Siem Reap, the people I know and don’t know greet me with the most genuine smiles, my Khmer family provided me a place to stay with open arms after surprising them with my return, the people at my favourite places treat me so well and my friends have been amazing hosts as usual when we have dinners together. My only plan in the next two weeks is to spend time with my friends.

I just had a conversation with one of my friends about how difficult his life is right now with stress at work, inability to save with his expenses and lack of holiday time. This is unfortunately a regular conversation I’ve had with many Cambodians since I’ve been here in March.

As we were talking, one thing I found interesting was the way they interpret the phrase, “Do you have friends who can help you get in to that company?” For me, I’ve always encouraged people I know to make connections with the right people because to get the jobs. Often who you know is much more important than what you know. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t initially qualified for half the jobs I’ve had in my life, but my past employers and I had confidence that I could do the job.

But when I’ve suggested to some of my Khmer (Cambodian) friends to ask their friends to help them get in the company as a connection, one friend said, “I want to be strong, I want to help myself,” and another friend said, “I want to do it on my own.”

I’m so inspired by their drive to reach their goals no matter how bad their situations are, and some have been very open with me about what they’re going through. No matter what, they want to make it on their own and I know in time they will because of their relentless determination.

All I know is if I ever had an organization in Cambodia, I would hire them in an instant. It’s not about choosing people with all of the right skills, it’s about their motivation and their future potential to excel in their roles.

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