I’ve written before about volunteering in Cambodia, but I wanted to talk a little more about what exactly I’m doing on this trip here. I’m based at New Futures Organization in Takeo, Cambodia and am currently volunteering as a teacher with a class of about 20 students.
The school is called Little Po and is located in a really rural village that is hovering around the poverty level. This village school was originally established four years ago to give the children a starting point in the English language and to also to give them a little break from their challenging lives. There is one class of 200 students, with one teacher called Team who is nothing short of amazing. He is constantly bursting with energy and has mastered some pretty impressive tricks to keep the children in line, despite being heavily out numbered.
My class are beyond charming – whenever I go away from a break mid way through the afternoon, I’ll return to sweet messages on the back of the whiteboard. The school was set up to offer English classes to children who would otherwise go without education and instead be working all day in the fields. Volunteers come by to supplement Team’s teaching and to take the more advanced students away so they can get authentic exposure to the English language.
The bike ride out to Little Po is incredible – fiery red roads, bright green rice paddy fields and stray cows and pigs wandering the streets. As you enter the town children run out to the road to give you high fives as you cycle past and while shouting “hello” sometimes even the adults get involved and enthusiastically welcome you to their village. Often my students bring their younger siblings along to class because there’s simply no one else available to look after them.
Life is different here; and that’s part of the reason I’ve fallen in love with this provence within Cambodia. Their happiness is not bound to the latest smartphone, a new car or buying new clothes – in fact, many kids only have one outfit. Sometimes kids will just wear their pajamas as clothes because it’s simply all they have. Their priorities are different; focused around family and simply having enough to get by.
The surprising thing though, is whatever the kids have they’re more than happy to share with you. They’ll muster together their pocket money and buy volunteers small candies or stickers as a token of their affection. These kids who really have nothing, give all they can and it’s beyond humbling.
This is the place I come to reset myself, to align myself. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the every day rat race or working towards buying something or getting somewhere, so that you can finally be happy. These children in Takeo have taught me, and continue to reteach me, that I already have absolutely everything I need to be happy – I have my health, my family and my friends.
Each day the children sing a number of songs to welcome us volunteer teachers – before and after each break they sing us a “Thank You” song to show their gratitude. I’m not really sure how I can thank them for all they’ve taught me, but I guess coming back time and time again says enough.
I’m home in just over two weeks – time is coming around fast, but in between I’ll be visiting Rabbit Island, Phnom Penh and heading back to Singapore. I know it’s going to fly by, so I’m trying to savor every day and every moment here.