“passing the baton” – volunteers and projects working together

“passing the baton” – volunteers and projects working together

When any new volunteer placement is accepted and agreed, we send previous volunteers’ reports and encourage our new volunteers to get in touch with those who have been to the same project before. This is a vital in enabling continuity of project support and placement roles – and also avoids volunteers “re-inventing the wheel”.
Individual placement roles differ according to volunteers’ individual skills and experience – whether in education, training, practical skills, social care, nutrition, health care, social work – but the fundamental skills-share approach applies with each and every placement.

The following extracts, from several volunteers as well as from the projects in Cambodia, demonstrate the interconnected nature of placements and “passing the baton” … 


so, Cambodia projects … teaching, training & education, practical skills, horticulture, health & social care (click on the link to find out more) 

I worked in the Nursery K1 with 3 and 4 year olds, some of whom were in their first week at “school”. The children do not start state school until they are 6 so the Community Centre is their training ground for school. My remit was to support and encourage their new teacher, Chenda, in her use of English. The 3 hour session with the children involved learning the routine of school and how to sit still and be involved with others in the lesson. It started with learning to answer the question “What is your name?” It was very satisfying that at the end of week one, most of the children could do this.

There is a syllabus that the teacher can follow that leads to the work that will be done in K2 and K3. Mid-morning, there was a free play session with the toys and puzzles that were in the classroom. I sat among the children and was involved in the play which generated all sorts of English learning possibilities from colours to numbers and shapes. Then after outside play, we finished with recapping the earlier words and pictures and songs. The morning session ended with the traditional lining up and farewell to the teacher and each child was given a vitamin sweet on leaving.

In the afternoon, I worked in a class of 7- 8 year olds (K3) who were learning English using phonics. They had reached the fifth group of phonics, having covered groups 1 – 4 the previous year in K2. I was more of a classroom assistant here. The initial learning style was group “shouting” of answers but the children really loved this and the teacher made it competitive by creating teams and awarding points and stickers. We did test individual understanding through games and by the use of individual whiteboards.

The other job that I had been asked to do was to create some basic geography lessons that could be used by the teachers as part of the emerging General Studies programme. Initially, my thoughts had been about doing some simple mapping of a room in a house, or a room at school or an area of the village. However, once I was in situ, I could see that this would be too complex. Many of the teachers could not make sense of a paper map although they were very proficient with Google Maps on their phones!! After discussion, we decided to focus on 3 lessons.
1. Why we have day and night, and why we have winter and summer – using a globe and a large orange space hopper for the sun and moving the globe around the sun. The UK and Cambodia were marked with playdough on the globe. I created 2 worksheets which could be used in full or which could have labels with missing words for the students to fill in.
2. Latitude and Longitude. The world maps used in Cambodia are pacific centred with Australia in the middle – very weird to us!! I created a pacific centred world map with the key lines of latitude and longitude. Again, this could be used for the students in full or with parts of words missing. The lesson also briefly touched on why latitude and longitude were “invented”. I also created a word search of key words connected with latitude and longitude, and explained how I had done it and which website I had to create free printable word search puzzles. That was a very popular resource.
3. Lesson 3 introduced different sizes and scales of maps and asked the teachers to find places on them. Map 1 was a road map of Cambodia. Map 2 was a tourist map of Siem Reap. I asked the teachers to find various places from a single starting point of the Hard Rock Café in the centre of Siem Reap. Some found this easier than others and some used Google Maps!! Map 3 was a map that I had drawn of the route from the hard rock Café to Treak Village with various local landmarks shown that they had to identify. This map could be used with the smaller children to locate places in the village and with the older evening class students to map read their route from town to their homes.

and from the project:

Tina helped with teaching, prepared resources and materials, helped with classroom management, encouraged learning through playing. In the evening classes she helped teach English and helped the teacher to find resources to use as examples.

The preparation with regards to People and Places was very smooth … I liked their friendly approach and the support was always there. I think the induction day on arrival was very important and the actual placement experience was brilliant! Initially, I was very out of my comfort zone but I surprised myself at my ability to slot into the programme very quickly. I also learnt a lot about myself! It was a very positive and fulfilling experience.
I was fortunate enough to work with children of all different ages rather than just one age group. I met some wonderful people and would not hesitate in volunteering again.

and from the project:

Penny worked in the nursery on most days and then stayed on to help with the evening class! She helped with teaching, prepared resources and materials, helped with classroom management, encouraged learning through playing. In the evening classes she helped teach English and helped the teacher to find resources to use as examples. Mr Dara says, “I would like to thank her for everything she has done or suggested in my class for keeping the students’ learning moving forward”. Mr Chhlat says, “I want to say thanks for the big help in my class”

I was fortunate to have met with Dianne Ashman from People and Places on a number of occasions who was able to give me excellent advice re the project etc. I was also in email communication with (a previous volunteer) Nikki Clive who I later met in Siem Reap (when she was volunteering again!). 

volunteer Nicki

As soon as I arrived I knew the choice was right for me; the centre is a thriving though peaceful place where children of all ages enjoy learning and are encouraged to develop their language skills as well as to respect each other.

My role was to work with the Teacher Sophea in the pre-school class – Ducklings and Kittens. My time in the classroom was spent helping the teacher with pronunciation of English and devising learning games for the children, as well as simple PE and ball games. I had taken resources with me – some colour and number resources of different shapes to help with counting as well as several large print story books.

There is no doubt that this is an inspiring place, with a Khmer project manager. I enjoyed the placement; the children were delightful; the teachers quietly efficient; an atmosphere of care and support prevailed … a place of learning and fun.

… and from the project:

Janet was so helpful to us sharing and teaching basic skills like listening, gross and fine motor skills, and discussing alternative teaching methods. Janet also helped by organising the library in a logical way which will help us to use it better.

practical skills, horticulture, training, health & social care:

I was teaching on a one to one basis, developing the skills of an individual to pass on in an adult training context. I was asked to develop a horticulture cropping programme for the Community Centre showing how to propagate plants and design and construct a raised bed vegetable garden which was successfully completed in my three week stay. Hopefully I left behind a lot of enthusiasm to continue exploring alternative crops to grow leading to a useful learning project.

seedlings & raised beds
progress – one month later

The work I have been doing is just the start in Cambodia to educate the population in growing food for nutrition, self-consumption and profit which is harder than it appears due to the local culture of pride and independence that has used an agrarian system that has not changed for a 1000 years.


There is the desire for food self-sufficiency and there is a lot of underlying knowledge available. The opportunities are immense for volunteers to change attitudes particularly with the young.

… from the project:

Rob worked with Salin, the project manager, who is keen to develop the horticulture skills of local people. Rob particularly helped with methods of seed germination and established some raised beds for growing vegetables. He also explained about planting schedules and was very interested in the whole gardening programme. This was very helpful, especially the germination techniques, which Salin wants to pass on to local people. There is potential for people to sell produce into the local tourism market. Rob also visited a local commercial nursery so he could see a range of existing activities.

During my time there, I assisted the head teacher with English classes, completed interviews regarding housing and education in the local community, and developed the framework for a nutrition program.

I believe the nutrition education program could continue to be developed and implemented within the school. The work I completed merely provided a beginning framework. On my last day, I completed a workshop with all of the staff members about adequate nutrition and provided classroom ideas.

However future volunteers could expand by developing lessons for each level of class (nursery through advanced) that the teachers could use to teach the subject. The teachers at the school were interested in the subject. 

Stephanie with local staff, Dara & Pechey

I enjoyed participating in a variety of activities at the community centre with the local staff and community and although my time was limited, I was able to provide at least a basic framework for the two research areas I came to work on.

Sophie – we don’t yet have Sophie’s report as her placement ended only recently , but the following comments from the project give a good indication of the work she did, including the continuation of the work begun by Rob and Stephanie.

Sophie looked at the First Aid arrangements at the Centre, reviewed Health and Safety, helped in the nursery and English classes, and added to the work done by Stephanie on Nutrition. With first aid she discussed the situation and local requirements with staff, established and equipped a new first aid post, wrote a first aid handbook, trained one key member of staff, and ran 2 workshops for the remaining staff. She assessed the health and safety situation and produced a health and safety handbook, check list, and action plan. She took small groups of children with extra learning challenges out of the main class for extra lessons. She also spent time following up on Stephanie’s work.
Using her expertise she produced a very professional, comprehensive, and appropriate first aid station and a set of training materials and sessions for our staff. She produced similar materials for health and safety, bringing a professional and objective fresh pair of eyes to the situation. Sophie got on well with everyone at the centre and is a great team worker. She showed great maturity, patience and persistence with the extremely challenging children she worked with, especially those in the nursery classes, and gave some new suggestions for strategies on how to deal with challenging children.

Want to share YOUR skills with community support projects ? Please get in touch !

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