We have spent two weeks teaching English in an NGO school in Cambodia. It’s a very rewarding experience as these kids offer not only laughs but also lots of love and gratefulness in exchange for some of your time teaching English. We tried to teach them many things but we also learnt a lot from them. Being between 8 and 12 years old kids, they taught us valuable lessons that we can carry on with us. Here are the 10 things we learned the most:
1. Simplicity is the key
Some of these kids are very poor. It’s no wonder as 20% of Cambodia’s population is below poverty line. Some houses don’t have running water or barely electricity. Yet, the kids show up in the morning, eager to learn, play, and laugh with you. Life is simple and a simple life can bring you a lot of happiness.
2. Practice gratitude
We often forget how lucky we are to be able to take a shower, to buy new clothes or eat different foods. We need to remember everyday to be grateful for everything we have. A good comfy bed and hot running water seem to be something normal nowadays. However, we realized that is not the case for many many people in Asia or elsewhere in the world. Practice gratitude every day.
3. Be Creative
We wouldn’t be able to think what games to play here as there is not much material. However, these kids played the most fun game with a simple empty plastic bottle! A single flip flop is enough for them to have a lot of laughs. They don’t have Xbox, Ps3 but simple objects turned out to be useful for a lot of fun games. Be creative, think outside the box.
4. Stop complaining
We had some days at the school where we had no power, so the laptops don’t work. (They all have been donated with no battery). However, the kids don’t get stuck or complaint about it and look for other ways to learn. They simply work with what they have and are incredibly creative. Stop complaining, look at the positive in everything.
5. Don’t forget to play
We often get so caught on working, working and working. We don’t really take the time to play. It can be cards, football or any other games. These kids work hard to learn English and on having a good future but they also put everything aside to play and share time with their schoolmates. To play and laugh, to relax and have a good time is just as important as the lessons taught in class. Take it easy and take time to play!
6. Never stop learning, be curious
The kids were always ready to learn something new every day. We would then share about our culture and habits. We would talk about how relationship work here, how they get married or simply what their daily life is like. We then realized that people have a totally different way of living and respect to things or people. There is not just one way to do things but many. Nothing is totally wrong or totally right. There is always a space for reflection. Be open-minded to new ideas and way of doing things!
7. Sharing goes a long way
Coming from disadvantaged families, those kids don’t have much materials. However, they seem to have everything at the same time! When someone needed a pen, a classmate would lend one, when the others need a note book, it is other classmate that would help them to get new ones. They share bikes, ropes, shoes, clothes and everything is Ok. For us to have been able to share our time and knowledge with them has been the most amazing experience. We gave them something from us but we got a lot in exchange. Don’t be individualist and share with others. It will get back to you 10 times more.
We could not always have the kids to understand us or have everything ready on the minute. We had been waiting on the street for a tuk-tuk coming, but no one would come or similar examples. Those experiences taught us to be patient and everything would come our way. To get angry or aggressive is not the key of success. We learnt to be patient in certain situations and it paid off!
9. The sky is not the limit
We don’t even know how these kids got up there but they think of no limits. Many of them have big dreams, from becoming a teacher, a doctor or flight attendant. They all want to help people and do something good for their families and their country. We always say that the sky is the limit, but for these kids it seems like this is only the beginning, they go beyond that.
10. Don’t forget to laugh
Last but not least, the main lesson was to not forget to laugh. And to laugh often. We get caught up in our busy lives, going from here to there, sometimes without even smiling. At the school, no one class goes without a smile and huge laughs which makes you enjoy the present and forgets about the worries. Don’t forget to laugh, it’s good for your heart and health! 🙂