I've received a stack of heart warming feedback from friends and family about how proud they are of me coming to volunteer in Cambodia. Each comment makes my heart sing, yet I'm left with an odd feeling...imposter syndrome perhaps ? Yes, working here is fulfilling. Yes it is HARD work and the days are long (it's no holiday). Yes I'm working not just for free but also at a financial cost to me. Yet I feel that I really don't deserve the congratulations...the Cambodian's do.
From high school I've had a fascination with Cambodia. Cambodia is a place that's easy to love because the people give you so much back in return. They are dedicated. They want to learn. They appreciate anything you can offer. Feeling proud of yourself after teaching a 4th grader why it's important not to buy plastic? Think again, he's already off telling five 3rd graders all about it! Your pride is now transferred to him.
You'll find more NGO's in Cambodia than anywhere else in the world. I've discovered that everywhere you go in this country there is an NGO for this, a social enterprise for that. In fact as a tourist you'd have to go out of your way avoid them. Everyone here wants to give back to their community. After all they're making their comeback. During the harrowing genocide under the Khmer Rouge, all identity, capitalism, learning and love was destroyed. Only work and death remained. Epic Arts (Kampot) is a wonderful NGO that supports disabled youth with performance art. (watch the video!) Most of the performers are deaf or have other disabilities. The performance was inspirational, especially as the majority of them rely on the beat they feel through the floor in order to choreograph their moves. This NGO has turned their lives around to be some of the most positive people I've ever met.
Cambodian's are working hard to come back brighter.
Kids in Cambodia attend bleak schools with virtually no resources. At the local (public) school in our village the equivalent of just $US4 is allocated per student per year. The class rooms have dirt covered floors, no ceiling fans and no books. The toilet blocks are locked because the school has no budget to maintain them (kids ride home to use the bathroom). Despite having to learn in these conditions, the kids are determined to learn. They understand that they must learn and they must give back to their community. Their alternative is to work in the factories or in the field, living off $1 per day perhaps forever.
Despite the learning conditions, they persist by going to school at 7am with a 4pm finish. English classes then start from 4.30pm. These classes are all facilitated by Green Umbrella (some older high school students teach english too). In fact, many of the teachers from Green Umbrella that teach at KKS (private school) teach all day, then take a english lesson from us (teach the teacher), they then scramble over to the public school to teach English themselves ! Keen students stay for another class called Global Perspectives or they go play football (local kids only learnt about football 9 months ago by the way). The kids even go back to school on a Saturday! There is such little time to squeeze in new classes, any additional Green Umbrella workshops have to be run on a Sunday.
Cambodia is catching up on lost time. We're simply supporting them on their journey to come back brighter.
Here are the words
I take a few pictures too