Today we actually did something productive at work! We all went to the local secondary school in our village (Chhnal Moan School) to introduce ourselves to them and let them know what we want to do in their community. Of course, because 95% of the inhabitants of our village don’t speak english, the talk was given by our Khmer volunteers, whilst us English volunteers stood behind as decoration. The Khmer volunteers explained how we want to set up a Youth Club in the community, and within it, teach Career, Business and Agriculture skills, with English lessons on the side. Seeing the kids and the sudden excited chatter that arose upon hearing ‘English lessons’, made me feel a lot more useful and motivated to complete this project. Teaching English? That I can do.
After the introductions, and after most of the children had left to play in the playground, some of us volunteers started talking to a group of well dressed school children. We learnt that they had travelled from far (30 mins motorcycle ride) to get to their most local secondary school, and they were eager to learn English. Seeing the children made me wish I was doing a project involving building a new school. 30 minutes does not sound too bad, and I know it use to take me 1 hour and 15 mins to get to Bexley Grammar for sixth form, but that was because I had a range of more local schools and chose to go to a higher quality school. Whereas these kids do not get that choice at all; with the closest school to them being a 30 min drive away. This reflection made me have the sudden urge to make a success out of my life, and earn a lot of money so that I can invest money in building quality schools in developing countries.
Afterwards, we had a Khmer meeting w/ the school directors. The meeting, being totallly in Khmer, made us UK volunteers feel restless and bored. Later on at lunch, me, Tom, Serena and Grace were acknowledging how we didn’t feel that our project was very inclusive to us UK volunteers, due to the strong language barrier. It’s true. I think that we are facing a lot more of a challenge than other VSO country placements – e.g. those that went to Nigeria are in a country where majority of people know basic English, so the volunteers would be able to directly communicate with their host family and easily build rapport. Whereas here in Cambodia, in Koas Krala, no one can speak English;- leading to us heavily relying on our counterparts for translations. A lot of things said get lost in translation.
I have tried to weaken this language barrier slightly by consistently asking Sophea to help me learn Khmer words, phrases and numbers. Right now, I am able to count to 39, know how to say the time, and understand currency. 500 rial = ‘pram roy’.