During our month in Cambodia we decided that we would try and do something a bit more useful than sampling local beers and tourist attractions. After watching a great video made by one of my friend’s friend about a school close to Siem Reap we emailed to see if they needed a hand during the week we had free. They said that they did and so armed with a lot of pencils and coloured paper we set off to the school.
The school is run by Poeuy, a really interesting guy who speaks excellent English and is really motivated to improve the language skills of the kids in his village. He opened the school back in 2010 and it has gone from strength to strength thanks to him and volunteers who have raised enough money to build two classrooms and a playground. Poeuy was also hoping to build a library and I think they have started construction on it recently. He lives at the school with his wife and 3 daughters, who are all super cute. His wife makes amazing food and we still miss it, although the day that the snake was caught and cooked was less popular!
Snake for dinner anyone?
On our first day Elliot, one of the other volunteers, let us help him out with the ABC class on the first morning. This class is the beginner level and also works as a bit of a nursery. This group was aged from about 4 or 5 upwards. The kids were crazy, they loved singing, dancing and misbehaving. To be fair to them, if someone spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand for over 2 hours I wouldn’t pay much attention. Unfortunately Elliot got a pretty bad bug and so had to leave us after one hour to teach the class. This was when it first hit us how hard the week might be if we didn’t prepare and resulted in us doing more arts and crafts than either of us has done in years. It also resulted in Pinion breaking her toe, much to amusement of all the kids. We had started off by taking the class down to the field and hiding pieces of different coloured paper, it seemed like a good way to teach the colours. That was until Pinion ran into a post that was hammered into the ground (to keep the cow from running off when it should be grazing). We did carry on with this game but Pinion took on a less mobile role of shouting out the names of the colours and shapes.
Two of the ABC kids:
The school has both morning and afternoon classes, attendance is optional and the kids tend to turn up when they can. They attend the local school for half a day and then come for an English or Chinese lesson when they’re free. This results in quite a bit of free time and we used that to find more videos for the ABC class, petting the cat and for napping.
Pinion chilling out in the hammock:
Our afternoon class was an older group, they were the level up from the ABC class. Some of the kids really did have a grasp on what we were trying to teach but others liked to shout, ‘Copy?!?!?’ very loudly and just copy whatever we wrote on the board. This class started off well but as the week went on we really struggled. The lack of resources and the varying abilities made it pretty tough to get everyone to engage. Probably not helped that this class was in the late afternoon, we did have a couple of kids who fell asleep.
Ivory and Nina were both volunteers from Taiwan and so Nina offered Chinese lessons to the kids as well, this was a popular choice and the class was always busy. Other than our two main classes we helped out one evening with more advanced kids and that was lots of fun. They were really keen to improve their English, realising that it will probably make a real difference in terms of what jobs they can get in the future. Siem Reap is a really touristy town and the advantage of speaking English will make a massive difference.
All but one of the volunteers were leaving on the Saturday and as Elliot, Nina and Ivory had all been there for a while Poeuy decided to hold a party. It was chaotic and lots of fun. The kids got to play a load of games and we filled them up with enough fizzy drinks to keep them running the whole way home.
Pinion can still jump with a broken toe:
Pretty sure this is when my trousers ripped:
Alban being carried:
We could only stay for a week, otherwise our visa would run out. Before we started we were unsure about the whole voluntourism thing, you don’t want to do more harm than good. I think we did actually help here, these kids are already going to school to learn the basics that they will need and these English classes are just additional. Even if all we offered was basically a fun creche service for the little ones then I think that’s not so bad. I’m happy to say that there are now 10 little kids in a little village in Cambodia who can sing the Hokey Cokey. The school is still young and is constantly improving, the nature of it makes it difficult in implement a full on curriculum but with more resources it will make it easier to make the lessons more interesting and engaging. Whilst we were there Elliot managed to raise a hell of a lot of money and purchased a lot of resources, including new books and posters for the classrooms. As more volunteers visit and more money is donated then things will improve.
New football and hula hoops that Elliot bought: