As a retired GP I wanted to work as a general volunteer but somewhere where my skills and knowledge as a doctor would be useful. After several discussions with Kate and Dianne at People and Places with regard to my wish to volunteer it was decided that a suitable placement would be in Cambodia.
My role was to check and update the main first aid kit and organise small simple kits for each classroom. To give First Aid training to key staff members. To discuss issues revolving around general health and hygiene. To do a few talks to the early evening students ( aged 15-20 years ) about my work and experience together with advice on how to have a healthy body. I also helped support and assist the teachers in the English classes.
The whole team in Siem Reap were amazing, welcoming and dedicated and all kept the best interests of all the children who attended the school at the centre of every action. A safe guarding course was facilitated by Michael which was excellent, I have been on many during the course of my career and this was appropriate for issues that were universal but also those that were relevant to Cambodia bearing in mind cultural differences.
It was a joy to be involved and I have developed a new and great respect for teachers!
I feel that I was of assistance on several levels during my placement. I think that the teachers are now more confident to deal with first aid problems. I was able to use my medical knowledge to help a couple of staff members and several children which was great. I was just disappointed that because of the Coronavirus pandemic the school was shut suddenly and I was unable to say farewell to all the children and most of the teachers.
I opted to use a bicycle as my means of transport rather than a Tuk-Tuk, nerve wracking as last rode a bike >30 years ago ! However this was a highlight, you got the sights and smells of Cambodia as well as a sense of achievement, I would recommend it! There were numerous other highlights – finding other volunteers staying in the same guest house and some working at the same school, the sheer joy of working with children from very poor families and feeling that you are helping them by teaching English which will improve their prospects of further education and a good job in the future, the difference in one’s understanding of a country and its problems when visiting as a volunteer and not purely as a tourist.
I cannot end without making special mention of Michael, Salin, Sophea and Sary who are all doing an amazing job in carrying forward their aims of creating opportunity not dependency for the community that they are supporting. Their aims are laudable and I saw at first hand how Michael has trained and supported all the Cambodian members of his team so that they can take ownership of the project and continue it for their community, the children, their parents and everyone else involved.
During the first week I identified students whose reading skills were such that they couldn’t read anything teachers were writing on the board. I suggested that the teachers could make their own lists of students they thought could do with extra help and then I could take small groups out of class for 30 minutes intensive Jolly Phonics teaching. This worked quite well ……The groups made very good progress during the seven full weeks I had them.
I did four presentations to teachers outlining what the Jolly Phonics programme is and why using it is an effective way to teach students to read. I also showed them some techniques and practise activities. All the staff attended every session and I was very pleased to get really positive feedback from them and to see them using the activities in their classes.
Dara encouraged the staff to come up with a list of topics which they felt would benefit from volunteer training and input. There were two Dutch student teachers on project who did a really good training session on classroom management. I prepared the following training sessions but never got a chance to present them.
- Teaching the 4 basic skills.
- How to make your lessons more interesting
- How to teach general knowledge to students
Again Dara has the presentations.
Dara asked for my input into the general studies classes which are a ‘teachers’ choice’ of content. I suggested some basic Geography and did a trial run in one class. We did a week of learning about deserts. What are they? Where are they? What animals live there? Storytime How the Camel got its Hump songtime Alice the camel. All on Powerpoint. The teacher found the plans easy to follow and the students were engaged for the whole week. So I have got to work and left Dara with lessons on several more geographical topics. I am now working on some more topics for him currently Ancient Egypt.
The students usually have at least one lesson a week which is art and craft. Teacher Dara and I had the students find a story they liked in the library (either Khmer or English), summarise it, make puppets of the characters, build a puppet theatre and perform.
Lots of highlights of my experience –among the best was seeing the confidence of some of the students in my small groups grow, not just with me but back in the main class. Dara showed a picture flashcard of an elephant – the whole class shouted elephant and then one of my boys at the back said it is an elephant. I could have hugged him.
My only disappointment was that I had to leave early.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Treak Community Centre read here https://travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk/projects/320/education-%26-community-support—Treak%2c-Cambodia-(ED)
If you feel you could offer remote support to this project while we are unable to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic please email email@example.com