Thoughts from our volunteer from Canada

Hi-  Sobbhana has been so fortunate to have Deborah volunteer with us for a month.  She has done an amazing job and we are very grateful.  I thought it would be good to post her comments and to also encourage those who would like to volunteer with us to do so.  It is very important for our staff and children to be exposed to responsible volunteers from outside Cambodia.  They bring a new perspective and encourage new ways of teaching our young children.  It is important to make the lessons fun and interactive for both the teachers and the children.  The tendency has been for rote learning which can be boring for both teacher and student.  We want to foster a love for learning in our children!

Good morning Chris…today the daycare is closed and I am catching up on some email. I hope this is not too forward of me but I thought I would send my comments on the daycare and the work that is being done there. In short, excellent. A much needed service to these kids and their families is being provided. You and the staff are doing such a great job. You are amazing!

1. Chamroeum is doing a very good job, given the budget and resources. She is kind, respectful, responsive and totally committed to the kids, the centre and the staff.
2. The staff is hard working, committed and genuinely care for each other and especially the kids.
3. The kids…well they are kids…cute, well behaved, funny and trying hard. 
4. I am amazed that even a small amount of money can do something…Chamroeum is going to plant some mango trees: proper soil, seedlings and instructions can be provided for $20. After a lovely walk through the village and fields where I saw the various types of vegetables etc. I thought this would be a great $20 investment so I gave her the money.  
5. As the facebook photos show, only $50 bought a number of teaching aids, toys for the kids…all learning opportunities can be created from these items.
6. The daycare facilities are well cared for… Hm and Ta do a really good job.
7. There is no question that the kids need the services and sense of community. This is such an important part of their lives. 

Teaching aids and English lessons:

1. I have been exposed to poverty before. However, having spent 6 weeks travelling around this part of the world, I have been somewhat taken aback at the extent and the depth. What is especially cruel is the difference in those who have and those who do not…it seems like 95% do not..
2. We have incorporated the teaching aids in the daily activities…usually working with two to four kids at a time. Even over the course of 3 days I can see the awareness increase of what shapes were, how to fit them into puzzle pieces etc. 
3. There are a number of teaching aids to work with, including using those soft foam shapes you brought Chris. We separated them into 6 baskets and had two tables and four kids count out different colours and numbers of pieces. 
4. A new vegetable chart and accompanying basket of fruits and vegetables were used the other day to identify the various pictures and pieces. colours and types. Doing this blindfolded was especially fun.
5. Over the course of the day, we have been able to use the teaching aids,( with groups of 2-4)  about 3 times each. I hope this routine can continue.
6. I brought with me sheets with the individual alphabet letters and a number of opposite/sames worksheets. I also found an “opposites” book in a store and am currently using it with the teachers.  Additionally I bought a ubs stick, ( atChamroeum’s suggestion), and have saved some other worksheets from the internet. Tomorrow we are going to print some of these worksheets out and have them plasticised. At this point with the many new additions, there are a number of exercises and learning opportunities that can be incorporated into the daily routine. 
7. It was interesting to see how the kids reacted to the new balls and bats. There were many who had no idea how to throw or catch or kick the balls. They are now used during the outside playtime and are a big hit. The staff have had a few laughs with the badminton set. 
8. The  more complicated puzzles that you brought will also be incorporated into the routine. There is a very clear difference between the kids who will advance from the two wooden puzzles and the soft alphabet and number puzzles to your puzzles.
9. English lessons for the teachers. We have been having fun with the English. I have never done this before..taught English,( or for that matter the early childhood education ha). I am so happy at the teachers eagerness to learn. I could not believe it when all four of them just started writing out all the English I was putting on the board. I could not do so with Khmer…not by a long shot. They have learnt quite a bit. I spoke with Chamroeum about the cost of Chhai continuing this teaching by taking English lessons herself and then teaching the others. 

10. To my utter astonishment, for Chhai to take daily lessons from a fellow Khmer who knows written, and spoken English is a mind boggling $6 a month. I have offered to pay for a year on the suggestion that the lessons are taken and then taught to the other staff. Chamroeum and I will speak to Chhai on Monday. Chhaiis quick and I am sure after 6 months will be fluent. She will be able to use this skill herself…and teach others…She is very very poor as you know and lives with her mother. 

11. I have agreed to fund $20 a month for food for Simplou and her aunt. The poor girl is being harassed at school, where boys, who are  relatives? of the owner of the school are kicking her, tearing her note book etc because she is HIV positive. Chamroeum says that the principal says there is nothing that can be done.

I have to say when I arrived Friday last I felt very lost wondering what the heck I could do to help. That it was stupid of me to spend all the money I have to be here, when in fact, I could have written a cheque instead and a lot could have been bought. But as of yesterday, when I learnt of the $6 English lessons andChhai possibly carrying on and I saw how the kids are “getting it” with some of the teaching aids, I figured some good would come of my time here. I hope so.

 I thank you again for your work and the opportunity to be part of this extraordinary daycare.


Regards Deborah