“It was exciting to see the first duck-rice integrated farming pilot in Cambodia.”


UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Tyler Walz
Age: 24
Hometown: Millbrae, California
Nationality: United States, United Kingdom
University: Boston University
Degree: International Relations
Languages spoken: English, French (beginner)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Microfinance and Income Generation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Duration: 12 weeks
Start month: September 2016
Claim to fame: Tyler is a seasoned traveler and has visited over 20 countries! Welcome to the UBELONG family, Tyler, we are happy to have you on board 🙂

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I started looking at options to change my career path shortly after I left my last job. I knew that I wanted to stay in financial services but in a different capacity than I was working at the time, so I began to look for positions that focused on financial inclusion, specifically in microfinance. UBELONG was one of the only programs I could find that offered microfinance opportunities in a part of the world I was interested in working in. Additionally, I got my degree in international relations so I was somewhat familiar with international and business development efforts in foreign countries – that, coupled with my long-standing interest in seeking adventure through travel made it an easy decision.

What is your favorite memory?
Visiting my director’s childhood and family farm in Takeo province. It was the first time I’d been invited to someone’s home in Cambodia. My director and I drove there from Phnom Penh so we could watch baby ducks be released into his father’s rice paddies. When I started working at the NGO in September, another volunteer was just leaving. He and my director had researched some new methods to generate income for smallholder farmers and integrated duck-rice farming was chosen to be the first new technique implemented as a pilot on his father’s farm. The idea being that if it worked there, my director would be able to persuade other farmers to adopt duck-rice farming. The method has worked in other southeast Asian countries, so it was exciting to see the first duck-rice integrated farming pilot in Cambodia. I was able to witness and document a couple months of growth.

What did you take from the experience?
Working at an NGO whose mission it was to promote access to financial services and improved farming techniques among smallholder farmers has given me a lot to reflect on. It made me realize that I do in fact want to work in financial inclusion when I get back to the States, in any capacity that I can. The director’s willingness to positively affect the lives of the rural farmers through the NGO’s projects really permeated throughout the workplace. I have a strong feeling that similar development projects around the world successfully provide improved access to basic financial services, and I would love to be a part of this type of work in the future.

In a sentence or less, what was your funniest moment?
When I rented my first scooter while traveling, I asked a friend quickly how to work it, hopped on, and immediately hit another (parked) scooter across the street as I pulled out of my parking spot – the owner of the scooter ran out, laughed, and waved me on, while the women who had just rented it to me didn’t really know what to do. My other friend who hadn’t driven before instantly gave her keys back to them and I just drove off (and returned in one piece).

Related post:
Meet Fernando Russo, a project manager from Brazil, who volunteered with UBELONG at the business project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.