Mary Volm’s life makes for a pretty interesting story. At the time of this interview, she is in Siem Reap Cambodia. Next, she is off to Kep, Cambodia, to her newly purchased land, before finally flying back to the United States on April 3.
Mary’s overall plan is to return to Cambodia, where her companion Jim Mayer and son Sen Mosoe currently reside.
“I have purchased new land in Kep, so I will return in early August to build my dream home, art studio and gallery,” she says.
As a full-time artist and professional photographer for 42 years, Mary is intent on pursuing her passion exactly the way she wants. Her art studio will include everything from glass to abstracts, monotype prints, encaustics and ceramics.
Fortunately for her quality of life, Mary has gone to great pains to ensure her “work” has always run on a parallel track to her “passion.”
“All my jobs have been passionate pursuits,” she explains. “Creating a livable city and educating the public. A communicator and journalist before, are all noble pursuits.”
Following these passions dovetails quite nicely with who Mary is as a person.
“I find people so interesting,” she says. “I have a degree in both psychology and sociology, so I love observing and helping people.”
Helping people, working on creative pursuits, and building her dream environment in Cambodia, it’s all part of a broader concern for everything from the health of the planet to clean water, education and equal access to opportunities for everyone.
So, perhaps the ultimate question is what precipitated the choice to make her next destination Cambodia, of all places.
“I had been considering Central America as a location for a warm winter home… but I fell in love with the Cambodian people,” she says. “Hands down, the sweetest country I’ve ever visited.”
And yet, her desire to spend time in Cambodia goes far beyond simply occupying her dream home in a land she loves.
“I have adopted three families who, like most Cambodians, struggle to make ends meet,” she explains. “I do what I can for these families and am generous with anyone when I am able. Honestly, the people are very poor, but are so happy and generous themselves.”
And in a brilliant bit of serendipity, the Cambodian environment provides a welcome parallel with life in Oregon.
“Everything is fresh, the fruit, vegetables and meat are harvested the same day,” she says.
From non-GMO foods to a lack of huge amounts of processed foods or unfortunate ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, Cambodia sounds like a foodie’s paradise.
Still, Mary’s heart has a place in Portland, despite what she describes as its severely compromised livability.
“[From] the traffic congestion, lack of affordable housing and dramatic increase in homelessness, it feels like someone took their eye off the ball in city government around 2005,” she laments.
She even ran for City Council in 2010, but was unsuccessful running against someone who she describes as “a very rich incumbent.”
Yet, despite all that, Mary has gratitude for the work she did working for the city of Portland.
“I am grateful I was able to tell the world about what a great community Portland is,” she finishes.
And it’s PDX People like her who contribute to the great community that is our fair city. As she builds on an amazing life in Cambodia, Portland would benefit from her continued presence as a creative force and noble resident.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.