Sus-Dai everybody! Hello from the C.E.S.H.E.O school in Cambodia (the Cambodia English School of Higher Education). We have spent 2 weeks volunteering for an NGO school in a small village next to Siem Reap, near the famous Angkor Wat temple. Having plenty of time on our hand, the volunteer work experience was part of our journey. We started to look for some projects on the website helpx.net which is a great tool to find volunteer work. It is a reliable website giving access to thousands of organizations where only $25 dollars for two years are invested to join in. We chose to spend 2 weeks in Cambodia and work for the CESHEO Schools. We wanted to teach English and this organization needed volunteers. It was the best place to settle down for a little while and give out a little of our time 🙂
CESHEO has 3 schools that are totally free for the kids from 5 to 15 years olds coming from the surrounded villages. Those 3 schools live out of the volunteer’s help and donations. They don’t have any other income. They are very important for the village community as they give education to children with no mean to afford the public school. The public school in Cambodia is not free and is paid per class. If the family have some money, the kids can study from 1 subject to more. If a family has a very low income, the kids then would attend one of the schools which we worked for.
For us, coming from the west part of the world, it is not easy to understand why the government doesn’t put any effort to invest in education and educate its future generation. It would help them obviously to have a better future but it would also contribute to have a more prosperous and wealthy country. Cambodia history has some dark side including the Khmer Rouge governance. (See previous article for more information.) The country has been through a terrible time and it takes indeed some years to recover from it. However, mentalities are changing slowly and the goal is now for them to go toward a bright future. We took part of this teaching project with the hope to improve kid’s English skills and give them some courage and hope for their future employment prospects.
We stayed at Mr. Rady’s house with other volunteers. Mr Rady is director of the 3 schools, managing the enrollments and organization of CESHEO. The money is constantly invested into schools projects and it is the main focus. At the house, our accommodation consisted in a mattress on the floor. The shower was in the bathroom with few cleaning maintenance. The food was eggs, veggies and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Meat and chicken soups were also proposed from time to time but being vegetarian the main ingredient were indeed rice, veggies and eggs. The first week was a little tough as we are not used to live with almost no comfort and eat the same food every day. I think for me (Lydie) the hardest part was the daily cold shower surrounded by spiders and insects. But anyway, after a while we got used to it. We had to remember that we were here for the kids and not to spend relaxing vacation.
Our first day at school was not disappointing and gave us all the motivation we needed. The kids were amazing during the 2 weeks. They don’t have much at home but gave us everything they had. Between lots of laugh, smile, flowers, beautiful drawings and lovely happy faces, we felt overwhelmed by all their love and kindness. See pictures below 🙂
Juan and I planned the topics we wanted to go through with them for the two weeks. We got lucky to have the advanced class in the morning. We could go a little deeper in the grammar and conversation. It is amazing to see how smart they are and the fact they are willing to learn. We always tried to include some fun during the day with games, origami making or other amusing activities. They all have their own personality and sense of humor. There is literally no violence in their community. Everybody help each other. Nobody steals or lies. They were very patient and not complaining to have few material to study. The equipment in the school was quite basic. We had a board and chairs. A computer room with 6 donated computers shutting down anytime. When it was not the computer shutting down, it was the electricity. There is no running water as well.
Despite all that, we had the most fun of our trip with our class and the other kids. We played football during the breaks, improved incredibly our drawing skills (no photocopy machines available) or used much more our imagination to plan our classes. From this experience, we really started to question on the way we live in the west part of the world. These kids don’t have much money but have so much energy, love and kindness to give. We really realized that material has nothing to do with happiness. This is really something we learnt during this 2 weeks. They are richer than any wealthy people in this world as they have joy in their eyes, friends and family that care for them. To be rich is to be healthy and happy – not to have a Porsche in the garage or plenty of 100 dollars bills in the bank account.
We really learnt a lot from them, and we would love to come back say hello in the future. In the meantime, we would love to invite you to go visit the CESHEO website: http://www.ceshe.org/ and have a look at the schools pictures and history. If you feel like doing it, some donations would be very appreciate, as once again, the schools survive from the help of volunteers and donations. With only 20 CHF or 20 Dollars, Mr Rady can buy thousands of different stuff for the school and use the money to keep developing the project and maybe open a 4th school ?
We look forward to your feedback and comments. Do not hesitate to ask us questions in case you would be interested in participate in this volunteering experience which is rewarding and fun!
See you soon.
The next destination is Bangkok!