Two volunteers with very different backgrounds – one a young engineer, the other a retired GP. One had already travelled to Cambodia to volunteer at Treak Community Centre (TCC), the other had a placement planned there which had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Both determined to use their skills to work as e-volunteers to help teachers from TCC develop their skills and knowledge and help them with their own online teaching.
Andy’s e-volunteer placement involved activities based around simple science and technology. Each week Dara (head-teacher at TCC) gave him a topic such as Water or Transport and Andy devised a lesson to teach the basic concepts of this topic and to include a practical activity. The aim was that, by the end of the placement, teachers at TCC would have a range of practical activities which they could use with their own classes to encourage interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. And what fun they had! By the end of the first session Andy had shown them how to demonstrate how a volcano erupts which Dara immediately tried out
In subsequent lessons they made clay models of the structure of the earth, learned about the water cycle, made toy cars powered by elastic bands, designed cable cars, learned about ways to recycle different materials, made a scale model of the solar system, learned about buoyancy and experimented with water displacement, made pen-top submarines and learned how to make a structure out of paper which would support weight
Andy told us ‘I would plan out a lesson according to what they wanted to know and what their current knowledge was. This often required some research, as there were some things I didn’t know (what causes the monsoon seasons in Cambodia, for instance). During the lessons I would continuously check in to make sure everyone was understanding. Dara and the other teachers would often ask questions that would require me to add information during the lesson or, if I didn’t know the answer, I would do some research and send a follow up email with the answer (a typical lesson would include at least one question that I didn’t know the answer to, which kept me on my toes). The highlight for me was the enthusiasm of the teachers in Treak CC and the interest they had in the information I was giving. I also learned a lot myself from doing the lessons, both about my teaching skills and my knowledge of the subjects.’
Caro’s e-volunteer placement focused around Covid safety, first aid training and child development, and this placement is still on-going. Caro had already done an in-situ placement at TCC where she had provided first aid training – her e-volunteer work enabled her to go over this again on a one-to-one basis and to go into more depth on various health issues as requested by the TCC staff. In particular she was able to provide useful information about Covid safety, both at school and in the community. Our partner in Cambodia had identified that local people knew what they should be doing to keep themselves safe but did not know WHY they were being asked to do things such as wash their hands and wear face coverings. Caro taught them about what a virus is, how it enters the body and causes disease – this explanation enabled them to understand why they were being asked to follow preventative measures and made them much more likely to follow them. Although Caro’s placement started with online meetings just with Dara and Viphou (the deputy head), by the time her placement finishes she will have worked with all members of staff at TCC and some online classes too
To find out more about how your skills could be used in an e-volunteer placement at Treak Community Centre follow this link. There are so many opportunities – our first three e-volunteers have covered education, healthcare and science/technology. They have worked with senior staff, all teachers and online classes too. There is also scope to work with TCC staff who work with the community to develop business skills, practical skills and employment opportunities. What can you offer?