So this week, on Monday, we were told that the careers team would have to go to a CV training workshop at the job centre in Battambang. However, when we were halfway there in the taxi, we got a phone call from Cara (team leader) saying that the date was wrong, and that it workshop was actually on Tuesday. So us in the Careers team ended up using Monday as a day off in Battambang. We bought presents for Lucky’s (one of my fave Khmer volunteers) birthday on behalf of the group. We then chillaxed in my fave spot in Battambang; this café called Café Eden. I looooove the vibes of this café. It’s made for a western audience but has really rustic Greenwich vibes. It makes me miss my favourite place to be in London, Greenwich.
On the Tuesday, me Rachel and Sophea went to Battambang again for the Job centre workshop. The workshop was a full day of CV writing and job application training; really informative but hella boring. However, in the lunch break, I went and explored the area a bit and went to a local desert place (made for a western audience; the location of the Job Centre is in a really western part of Battambang), and I got a (really buttery tasting) vanilla ice-cream. Whilst eating, another westerner (a white guy in his 50s-60s) came in and started making conversation with me. He was from Austria and was telling me about how he was on a cycling trip around Asia. I told him I was working in Cambodia as a volunteer, and was surprised when I didn’t get the expected ‘Wow! How cool!’. Instead, he started muttering how he didn’t understand why people wasted time volunteering- ‘Why can’t you just give them money?!’. ‘Because money isn’t sustainable,’ I replied, ‘and skills are instead’. This incident makes me think of the saying from the philosopher Lao Tzu; Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
The job centre training finished around 4pm, and from there , we went to collect a cake to add to Lucky’s birthday gift (as today is Lucky’s birthday). When we arrived back in Koas Krala, we stopped at Rachel’s house, where the rest of the team had organised a surprise party for Lucky. Rachel’s house was beautifully decorated with fairy lights, faux flowers and balloons on which people had written ‘We Love Lucky’, and ‘You are beautiful’ etc. As it was a surprise, when Lucky arrived at the house she started crying! We all gave her the gifts bought from Battambang and she started crying even more <3.
I don’t remember what happened on Wednesday. But on Thursday we started preparing for our first youth club session that would be occurring later in the afternoon! The youth club day was to consist of 1 hour of Agriculture training, 30 minutes of Business training, 30 mins of careers training and 1 hour of English lessons. The Careers session was to be based on teaching the kids the soft skill ‘Communication’, and we planned to teach this by playing a game called the ‘Human Knot’. In the human knot game, you get a group of people to hold hands in a circle, then get them to twist within the circle, forming a human knot. The aim of the game is to un-knot the group back into a clear circle by communicating with each other to carry out certain moves. But when our session was actually carried out, not one communication skill was learnt lolol. I have a problem with telling people their ideas aren’t good. I knew the Human Knot activity wasn’t the best game to play to try and demonstrate ‘communication’, and I knew we could’ve thought of a better game to teach communication through. However, because I didn’t want to dismiss any of my teammates ideas, I let us run with the Human Knot game which ended up with us volunteers doing all the communication and the young people just following our instructions.
After that pretty mediocre first session, we then had the English lesson. I ended up getting really frustrated with my team and stormed out of the lesson because yet again, because none of my team mates were listening to me and taking any of my suggestions on how we could make the lesson run smoother onboard. I would talk to a fellow volunteer about an idea I thought would be good to carry out in the class, then they would completely ignore what I just said and move on. At this point I was just so sick of being ignored- hence why I walked out of the class in front of all our students. This lead to me feeling very upset for the rest of the day.
On the Friday, I was still feeling really down from the day before. I felt like no-one really respected my views on this trip, and I felt like I was working so hard for basically nothing. My motivation levels were at an all time low. I vowed to stop putting in my energy and giving any ideas to my teams- if I didn’t give an input, there was nothing for people to ignore.
We started the Friday at Koas Kralor school, which is a high school consisting of 15-19 year olds. We got a tuk tuk to the high school (about a 20 min ride) and went there to introduce the students to our new VSO youth club and the skills and other life training we wanted to provide to them. The students were so engaged; their maturity was so refreshing! However, a lot of the students said that even though they were interested in our youth club and English lessons, they wouldn’t be able to travel all the way to the Chnnal Moan (where our youth club is based) to do so as it’s too far for them ☹. So when we arrived back at our VSO office, we all had to problem solve what to do. I’ve started to realise that either I’m not good at problem solving, or I’m not confident in expressing my ideas in front of a team.
The Saturday was our day off! Thank God! After a long week of feeling irritated by everyone, it was good to have a day to myself to cool off. I spent my day watching family guy, doing a few plaits on my hair and just chilling in the hammock. I also managed to video call my uni friend Debbie which was sooo lovely! I do miss that girl.
On the Sunday, work resumed again. In the morning, we ran our Agriculture, Business and Career Youth Clubs (YCs) at the Chnnal Moan school, our first Sunday session! And for once, my group actually followed my session idea through! It was beautiful to watch. The Careers session went ok I think, of course it was all in Khmer (the Cambodian language) so it was delivered by the Cambodian volunteers. We had about 11 students in our class and I could definitely tell that the older ones were very engaged. The younger ones looked a little lost, bless ‘em. The soft skills we taught in this session were Communication and Teamwork.
After the Careers session, we had to deliver English lessons. I learnt from my mistake last time, and decided not to plan anything and to not come with sculpted and scripted ideas. That way, I was more able to adapt to the spontaneity of the lesson. I’ve learnt that I can’t always get my way and my way isn’t always the best way.
After all our sessions in the YC, we all went back to the office and gave a debrief to each other of how all the sessions went. From what I was hearing, I think that in order to improve, we need to advertise our youth club a lot more and a lot better, to gain more students. After our debrief, me and my Mid-Phase Review (MPR) team started planning our MPR- which is next Friday! Ohmagarsh! The middle of our time in Cambodia is in a few days! And we literally only just fully started our project and interacting with the young people of our village like two days ago. This has been my most challenging week yet, so the timing of mid-phase review is superb.
That’s it for my coverage of the week!