Bachelor of Arts at the University of Tasmania with a double major in Indonesian and Asian Studies
As part of my degree I undertook the unit of Volunteering in Asia at UTAS, which then allowed me to do a Professional Placement unit in an Asian country of my choice. I chose to do my volunteering in Cambodia on a small island called Koh Rong Samloem, which is a 2-hour boat trip off the South coast of Cambodia. I volunteered for a non-profit organisation called The Cambodian Diving Group (CDG); the organisation is owned and run by Simon Herbert, an older expat who moved to Cambodia around 9 years ago. Though CDGs main income is from tourist fun-diving and island tours they also offered a unique opportunity to do Marine Conservation for short (4 weeks) or long-term placement depending on your availability.
My placement was based on doing reef clean-ups, beach clean-ups and also constructing artificial reefs to boost fish populations around the island. Upon my arrival to CDG I was introduced to Hannah Moore a marine biologist from America who was doing her research on the island, CDG teamed me with Hannah to assist in her research, which included surveying the artificial reefs and fish activity through analysing data and footage that was taken by Go-Pros without the presence of divers.
I decided to do this placement because of my qualification as a Dive Master; through the years of diving in Asia I found that pollution and over-fishing was a major issue in many parts of Southeast Asia. I had lived on Koh Rong Samloem previously to complete my diving certificates and became aware of the lack of knowledge for recycling and littering. My objective was to teach the locals about pollution and encourage them to dispose of their waste properly, which in the long-term would result in cleaner beaches and cleaner reefs. The artificial reef pods that were constructed were a success, the Go-Pro footage indicated fish colonisation in the first week of the pods being placed. And after 5 weeks there were algae and even resident fish on some of the pods.
The waste issue was still not so good. I teamed up with another Marine Conservation organisation on the island and discussed the possibilities of placing bins up the beach for locals (and tourists) to use. The bins were built out of recycled wood and had two separate compartments for organic waste and landfill. After implementing these bins around the island the locals started using them, this still did not solve the issue of built-up rubbish on the beaches. I tried doing beach clean-ups and getting the locals involved, but this was more of a challenge because they could not understand why I would want to be out on the beach picking up someone else's waste.
My experience on Koh Rong Samloem has assisted me in understanding the complex issues of over-fishing and has also given me an insight on how fish populate reefs depending on space. After living on a small island with no electricity, no running water and no cars I have appreciated the simple things in life, and feel incredibly lucky to be living in Australia where I take simple day-to-day activities for granted- such as taking a hot shower! This course has assisted me in analysing volunteering projects in Asia and has given me confidence to warn other like-minded tourists about how crucial research is when selecting a company for which to volunteer. I have used my skills that were taught in class and what I have learned in Cambodia to pursue other small volunteering projects that make a difference and benefit those in need.
Cambodia is a great place to live; the people are very helpful and generous. It always surprises me how happy the locals are to take time out of their day to assist you and care for you, and also their determination to show people how incredible their country is, with their recent history of the Khmer Rouge and the pain that their families had been through the locals still smile and are happy to welcome you in to their country and introduce you to their family and friends.
If I could I would do it all again!