In 2008 I was studying addiction psychology and counselling and of course as a university student I had quite a large summer break. After looking at various volunteering websites where you seemed to be charged large amounts of money to help various projects I stumbled upon the Chumkriel Language School (CLS) website where I discovered that you could volunteer for as little as just a couple of hours for free. All you had to do was find your way to Kampot in Cambodia. Here the CLS Director and Founder Mr Thy would help you find the right accommodation and introduce you to the school’s approach and philosophies personally even if you were just volunteering for a few hours.
I liked the idea and so booked to go for 3 months to teach English. What a wonderful experience and I still remember lots from these three months vividly. After meeting with Mr Thy on the first day I found out I would be starting the next day. School hours were something like 7-11 and 4-7 with a break in the middle of the day due to the heat. From 7-11 I was helping out in the learning centre which was just being developed to run adjacent to the school. During break times children would flock to the room to explore what little resources they had and to interact with any volunteers that may be there. We would interact, play games, read and explore together. In the afternoon we would help with the English classes which ran after school, helping mostly with pronunciation and supporting the Khmer teacher a bit more formally.
I was assigned to the scholarship class (which included children that were funded to come to these lessons because they couldn’t afford them) and over the 3 months built up relationships with the children.
All in all this was one of the best experiences in my life and I was particularly impressed with the schools involvement within the community.
I remember bikes being donated to the children so the sometimes long journey to school was that little bit easier.
I remember taking football training on the weekend in conditions that I could not believe how it didn’t hurt the children playing with no shoes.
I remember meeting the teachers families, children and sharing meals and stories about different cultures.
I remember the youngest children in the school charging into learning centre in their break time and being hit by a tornado of energy and enthusiasm for the 20 minutes break that they had.
And with these memories I left Cambodia and immediately looked into changing my career path into becoming a teacher. One year later and I was teaching in primary schools in London. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as inspired with education in England to the same degree as I was in these 3 months to stay in schools in England but I have continued to work with children and this is largely thanks to my experiences in Chumkriel Language School, with the children, with the teachers and with the local Cambodia community.
Chumkriel Language School
Chumkriel Language School is run by Mr Thy and is what he is planning to use as a bench mark for his school development programme in Angprey which is one of the first projects to be uploaded onto the Capital Smiles website. Please take a look, share with friends, donate and if you ever find yourself in Cambodia have go and volunteer with this wonderful project and Cambodian community.