In our quest to provide students with immersive, experiential learning experiences, we always collaborate with local experts and guides. In Cambodia, one of our valued partners is Vuttha Dam, a warm and passionate tour guide from Siem Reap. As Vuttha shares, “Although I fell into tour guiding almost by accident, l became very passionate about it. I love to support, share, and facilitate interactions between local communities and student groups of CAS Trips from all over the world. So far, l have led hundreds of student groups.”
Vuttha’s journey from experiencing poverty and working in a temple to eventually becoming a passionate and knowledgeable Trip Leader, makes him an integral part of the Cambodia experience. In this article, Vuttha shares his insights and approach to leadership, in addition to his contagious enthusiasm for his home country of Cambodia.
Vuttha’s journey to becoming a Trip Leader
Vuttha Dam wears several hats in life. A devoted father and husband, he’s also a dedicated advocate for his homeland, Cambodia. His journey to becoming a trip leader is a testament to his resilience and unwavering passion for sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas.
Vuttha’s early years were marked by adversity, and he spent a considerable portion of his youth navigating poverty and other challenges. However, his unyielding love for learning and his desire to connect with others kept him on a path of discovery.
Initially, his ambitions led him on a different trajectory – pursuing a legal career. As he shares candidly, “My dream was to be a lawyer.” Yet, life had other plans for Vuttha, as he grappled with the harsh realities of poverty and hunger. These very challenges ultimately reshaped his path, compelling him to embark on a career as a tour guide.
However, Vuttha’s evolution into a tour guide was far from accidental. It was born out of a genuine passion for supporting, sharing, and facilitating interactions not only among travelers but also within local communities — an approach embodied by his trips to Cambodia. Vuttha believes in sharing Cambodia’s rich culture and friendly people with the outside world while allowing students to immerse themselves in the real Cambodia.
Helping to empower the local community
For example, one of the defining aspects of Vuttha’s trips is the time spent at homestays within local communities. He shares, “Most of the groups have spent some of their time at the homestay in the communities where students and locals have opportunities to interact, to learn and understand from each other’s culture and way of life.” Moreover, students actively participate in various charity works, such as building schools, libraries, restrooms, playgrounds, water pumps, and more. These activities benefit the communities and give students the opportunity to work with the people their efforts are directed towards.
One such memorable experience for Vuttha was witnessing students coming together to build infrastructure that directly improved the lives of Cambodian communities.
The joy on the faces of students and locals was a testament to the power of unity and the positive impact of experiential learning.
As he puts it, “It was one of the best experiences for students to learn about kindness, love, and sharing with others.”
Sharing Cambodia’s diverse culture and history
Cambodia boasts a diverse culture and a history filled with both triumph and tragedy. Vuttha takes pride in representing his country to the world, sharing his personal experiences and unique insights with students. He embodies the spirit of Cambodia, exuding enthusiasm, warmth, and patience. He affirms, “I also love being me and sharing the struggles I have gone through to be where I am today. I am always full of energy, I tend to be smiling most of the time, I have developed a lot of patience and treat everyone like I treat my most beloved ones.”
Of course, this chance to see Cambodia through the eyes of a passionate local is an enriching opportunity for students. Vuttha also plays a crucial role in bridging the language barrier with other community members, as most locals do not speak English. He creates the setting for meaningful interactions by organizing and facilitating activities, including rice planting, basket, and broom making, rice milling, cooking local delicacies, cooking classes, and dances around the campfire to traditional music.
Vuttha shares that his favorite activities include “those that allow students to get hands-on experience with Cambodian traditions and crafts. These activities enhance cultural understanding and create lasting memories and a more compassionate mindset.”
Inspiring students to make a difference
Indeed, a trip to Cambodia with Vuttha Dam has the power to inspire students on many levels. As he aptly puts it, “Seeing the real thing with their eyes and hearts is the best way. For students to see and appreciate what they have or meet the type of people they have not encountered previously — this is an eye-opening experience. These trips provide so many opportunities to learn and understand the differences in the way of life around the world.”
We are so glad to have Vuttha Dam as our partner in Cambodia. Through his guidance, students have the opportunity to explore Cambodia’s rich culture, history, and communities, gaining insights that go beyond the textbooks!
Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as we share more stories from our trip leaders worldwide, and learn more about our Cambodia trip here.