We travelled to Battambang because we had volunteered to work at a school for two weeks. The school is a Khymer New Government Organisation (KNGO) school in a small village where children could go after their usual school classes to learn English.
A man called Saveth built the school next to his small house, as he wanted to give the local village children an opportunity to learn English, even if they had no money. Many kids started coming to the school, and Saveth and his wife give them free fruit drinks and snacks when they turn up. This is all paid for by a charity organization.
The school looks like an upside down L shape, with three classrooms, one computer room, where students and local adults can practice their typing and IT skills, an office where Saveth works and the other volunteers can get a drink or plan lessons, and finally a sewing room, where Saveth’s wife teaches women how to sew. The things they make, like clothes, tablecloths and napkins, are sold to get money for the school.
Lessons at the school happen all day but we worked there from 2:00pm until 5.00pm. In order to get there on time we had to leave around 1:30pm from our hotel in Battambang and get our favorite Tuk-Tuk man; Jet to drive us there! On the first day there, me and dad were instructed to teach one class, while mum and Rosie taught another. Each class has a regular teacher and a workbook to help them learn.
The teacher told us to introduce ourselves, so we did and then we stared the lesson, learning about parts of the body; head, shoulders, knees and toes! I decided to play a game of hangman to help them learn to spell the words they were learning. They struggled at first, but soon got into it and then we sang the song: Head, shoulders, knees and toes!
The kids did some work in their work books and then it was break time. I walked out of the class and into the play area, which is in the middle of the school. I ended up playing a game that is like piggy-in-the-middle; but instead of 3 kids playing, there were 10 of us! Everyone stood in a circle and one person had to simply touch the football in order to get back in the circle. Whoever touched it last, would be the next person in the middle.
After working with dads class for a week and a half, I decided that I would go see what mum does with her group. Just like before, I introduced myself and we began the lesson. I quickly realised that mums’ group listened much, much better than the other class. They all did things like put their hands up to answer a question and everyone took part in the activities they were doing. In the other group, there were 2 kids who always were really quiet and were shy and this was a shame, because looking at the writing in their workbooks, they were probably the smartest kids in the group!
In mums’ class we were learning activities and hobbies. Mum would ask the kids, “What is Ruben doing?” (I would perform an action e.g. Swimming). The whole class shouts: “He’s swimming!”. Sometimes we would both perform an action and ask the kids, “What are WE doing?” and they would say, “They’re riding bicycles!” We taught them lots of things, such as doing home-work, studying English, cooking dinner, cleaning my room, running, playing with my friends, reading a comic…
When classes ended we had to put our hands together to say ‘thank you’ and listen to the kids say goodbye. At the end of the class, Mum would get a hug and usually a gift of a drawing or an origami paper shape or something, and I would get a high five! (I never got a high five from my other class by the way…!)
On the last day mum and I brought in origami fortune tellers and paper aeroplanes for the kids (we made so many so all the kids had one each!), though the register was written a bit wrong and we had marked down a couple of boys as girls, so dad had to make a few extra planes and mum had to make a few extra fortune tellers, though it all worked out in the end.
I really enjoyed helping out at the KNGO school. Every one was so nice and I even learned how to write a few words in Khymer (which is what the Cambodian language is!). I really recommend going to KNGO and helping the kids, as they don’t have very much and have still taken the time after their proper school to come and learn English. It was a great experience for me and them too I hope! It was so much fun!