Volunteering in Cambodia
Volunteering in Cambodia

It is only a matter of time for guilt to eventually creep into your conscience when your days are consistently filled with lazing on a tropical island, drinking cocktails and witnessing spectacular sunsets on a daily basis. The fact that the monsoon season was upon us may have swayed my decision to move on as well, but it was time. Time for me to make a positive contribution, do my little bit for society and hopefully make the world a better place.

Seam Reap, Cambodia was the destination of choice partly due to the fact they were screaming out for volunteers another being it’s quite cheap to survive there. Rent was $100US a month for a cozy guesthouse room with fan, hot water, cable TV, and the sealer: free laundry. Not a bad deal I say!

Sale Rain Kampuchea was the lucky school to recruit the tanned, country boy from Australia with perfect mumbling English. The nonprofits NGO (Non-Government Organization) was set up by two young travelers: one from Switzerland and the other from Holland, who like me now, had totally fallen in love with Cambodia. Sale Rain Kampuchea offers free English lessons to disadvantaged people in the surrounding areas of Seam Reap whose claim to fame is the magnificent Angkor Watt. The famous 12th century temple complex is reputed to be the largest religious monument in the world.

The schools’ structure consisted of 3 administrators, 2 Khmer teachers, 2 volunteers, and a couple of hundred students: mostly children with the odd mature age student and the occasional monk. The children there were the extremely poor. In fact, they were poorer than the normal poor kids making them the poorest! Note the use of the superlative.

Four hours a day sounded like a tough schedule I could handle, so I signed on the dotted line for a 3 month period. I was committed now to assisting a Khmer teacher for four classes a day from beginners English through to Harvard University level English (that’s what it felt like anyway!) The first month I was definitely learning more than the students, trying to get my head back around adjectives, superlatives, past tense, adverbs etc! Prior reading of the teacher’s manual before each class was a must, just so they didn’t think their new teacher was a complete idiot! Many moons have passed since I studied at that fine institution Boddingtons University.

Teaching English to disadvantaged Cambodians so they could enjoy a brighter future was one of the reasons I chose this role. The other was so I could deter a little after months of indulging on the islands of Thailand. Things didn’t quite work out to plan as one of the other volunteers, unfortunately, was an assistant manager at the most happening bar in Seam Reap. Their mottoes went along the lines of “closes when the last customer leaves!” and “proudly promoting Irresponsible drinking since 1995”.

My time at the school was a thoroughly enjoyable life changing experience. The children were just so keen to learn as they fully identify the connection between learning English and earning money. Their job prospects increase tenfold if they can speak English and hopefully steer themselves away from a life of collecting plastic bottles out of garbage bins to survive! There was always genuine disappointment from the students if homework wasn’t given at the end of each class and even more heartbreak when the dreaded school holidays arrived. Not quite the way I remember it when I was at school.

The highlights for me at Sale Rain Kampuchea definitely had to be the cheeky sense of humor from the kids. I consider myself very fortunate to have shared a small part of my life with them and I will be forever in debt to them for changing my perspective on life.

Donating your time to a worthwhile volunteer organization I would recommend to anyone who’s sick of their normal everyday routine. As they say “if you don’t change the direction in your life, you’ll end up exactly where you’re heading!”

It’s a big wonderful world out there that we live in and if you don’t enjoy it, it’s your own fault.

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