Volunteering in Cambodia goes hand in hand with graduate’s new job

Date 20.08.2019

A graduate who took time out after her degree to volunteer overseas has returned to the UK with a fresh perspective on her profession…and a new, full-time job.

Chloe Holmes – from Peterborough – graduated as an occupational therapist in July. This summer, she travelled to Cambodia where she spent a month volunteering at the National Borei orphanage for Children and Infants (NBIC)*.

Chloe put the knowledge and skills from her three years at University of Northampton to good use, providing OT based interventions for children with severe disabilities and developing her own communication skills in the process. As she explains: “I loved my time at the orphanage, but I also found it challenging, especially with the language barrier. I learnt basic Khmer but it was still difficult to fully communicate with the children and staff.

“I definitely learned a lot of transferable skills whilst out there which will really help me in my new job such as non-verbal communication.

“There were less resources to provide therapy compared with what we have in England which gave me another obstacle to work around. I had to question how much the equipment that I had at my disposal would actually help the children. This gave me great experience in using different things which I haven’t used in my placements back home, so if I come across them now I’m back I’ll definitely make use of them.”

Chloe’s decision to volunteer for such a lengthy period was borne out of her personal desire to help people who might not have easy access to an occupational therapist: “Helping people goes hand in hand with being an occupational therapist so taking my skills ‘on tour’ to a country where OT doesn’t exist as a stand-alone profession was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss.

“During downtime, I got to have a look around and visited the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge regime. We also went to Siem Reap were we visited the Angkor Wat temples which were beautiful. We also spent weekends on some of the islands and even had time to go snorkelling.”

Now back in the UK, Chloe is settling in to her first post as an occupational therapist for the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.

Chloe explains she is in a place she never thought she would reach: “Academically, I struggled in school so going to university wasn’t something I ever considered doing. Receiving my degree was a really proud moment – and I’m also very happy I didn’t fall over on the stage collecting it!

“It’s fantastic to be able to go into working in the area of my degree, it makes the last three years really worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed my three years at Northampton University – I feel as though I should be coming back in September again!

“My experiences have made my time at Northampton unforgettable and I would recommend anyone considering occupational therapy to study here.”

*Chloe’s trip was made possible thanks to Santander Travel Fund. The Fund is available for students to apply for who are travelling abroad to aid their studies or their chosen career.

Find out more about Occupational Therapy BSc at University of Northampton, whether through the full-time route or full-time Extended route (here, students study for three years – although academic years are slightly longer – but the route includes less weekly attendance, meaning students with work or family commitments can more easily accommodate academic studies).

Find out more about the University’s Advanced Occupational Therapy MSc.