Cambodia has truly captivated me, it’s been an experience like no other. I’m staying in the province of Takeo which is about 2 hours away from Pnhom Penh. Takeo is a very small city and it’s a great place to really experience the Khmer culture. I’ve been able to travel a bit to other towns and I can say that nothing compares to Takeo. This province is known as the cradle of the Khmer civilization. The day starts at 5am and everything usually closes at around 8pm. People here are very humble and love to talk to foreigners, especially the children. Everyone yells “hello” to you as you pass by the houses. Khmer is truly a difficult language but I’ve managed to learn a few words to at least get by and I rely heavily in non verbal communication or just pointing at things.
My first week was spent visiting the village schools that New Futures Organisation has built. We have 7 different schools and a total of 9 teachers from Cambodia who teach English to at risk youth. The education system is very different here than in the States. Children go to public school from 7am to 11am, from 11-1pm they go home to have lunch and take a nap and then head to private school from 1-4pm (only those who can afford it). Our schools are free to students and usually run from 1pm-5pm. With the help of volunteers, teachers are able to provide children in these villages a good education without them having to drive several kilometers to other schools.
I have to say that my favorite thing so far has been meeting the children. They are the happiest children I’ve ever met, they don’t stop smiling and are so committed to learn. A few days ago, I was at one of the school and we had finished our lesson for the day but the kids wouldn’t leave because they wanted to play with me. However, the floor was really dirty and the classroom was a bit messy, without me saying anything, one of the girls grabbed a broom and started cleaning the entire classroom. Other students started to help her and I joined as well, I tried to get them to stop and explained that I would clean later so we could keep playing but they just didn’t care. They didn’t stop until the classroom was back to normal and clean. I’ve never seen anything like it, these are 7 year old kids who have had to grow up so fast but at the same time they are so playful and joyful.
In the mornings I usually go to the main NFO office and work on the organization’s social media as well as edit or work on the photos I take during my visits at the schools. I post on our Facebook site and have created an Instagram account that I manage and continue updating as well. After lunch, I head out to the schools and usually stay there until the end of the lessons. I ride my bicycle everywhere and sometimes ride in a scooter with the education coordinator or program coordinator. Everyone rides scooters here but I think I will stick to the bicycle for now!
I’ve taken over 800 pictures since I’ve been here, so I already started publishing some of them on my portfolio which could be found here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/26624477/The-children-of-Takeo-Province
Feel free to follow New Futures Organisation on Facebook and Instagram as I will be posting updates about the Organisation regularly.
Here’s me with some of the students at Ohana School:
By Patricia Chourio.