Name: Abraham Wapner
Nationality: United States
University: University of Virginia
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (fluent), French (intermediate)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Advancing Community Rights in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 6 weeks
Start month: February 2015
Claim to fame: Has seen the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at the same time!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I decided to become a UBELONG Volunteer because I was looking for a way to make an impact abroad with my volunteer work. I wanted to make a tangible difference in the lives people whose country I visited. UBELONG stood out because instead of offering me a manufactured experience, UBELONG allowed me to shape my own experience abroad and make a visible change for the better.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I worked to secure nationality papers and reduce statelessness among Cambodian minority groups. Through my time in the office and in the field, I helped my NGO work with three floating communities of over 200 people each. As each member of the community gained citizenship, they were able to buy land, access state healthcare, send their children to school, and have a chance at a better life. Knowing I had helped make that change was the most gratifying part of my experience.
What were your major challenges?
My biggest challenge was the language barrier. Most of my target communities did not speak English, and many did not speak even Cambodia’s national language of Khmer. Although my coworker helped me with translation, it was a significant hurdle.
In a sentence or less, how would you describe the locals you met?
The locals were welcoming, warm, generous, and fun!