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Published: August 21st 2010
I extended my stay in Siem Reap so that I could do 3 days volunteering at the Cambodian Children's House of Peace or as it's known in Cambodian Santepheap.
I only heard about this place on Friday night as I sat writing in my journal at the local outdoor food markets a guy sitting at the next table saw me with the journal and asked if 'I was a serious traveller' lol! Turns out Marco was volunteering at Santepheap and when he saw my journal he figured I might be someone with a bit of extra time. So he invited me to go and watch the children perform in their weekly dance show on Sunday night. The kids perform traditional Khmer Aspara dances as well as folk dances. As I was originally planning to leave Siem Reap on Sunday I decided instead to stay and see the performance and I am so glad I did!
The kids were amazing and you could really tell they were having a fantastic time. At the end of the show they invited us up on the stage to dance with them, this was interesting as some of the Aspara hand movements are very
difficult! I had so much fun watching the show and dancing (well attempting) with the kids that I decided to go back on Monday to help out for the day.
I ended up spending 3 full days hanging out with the kids and helping with their English classes. In Cambodia there are too many children for the classes so each child goes to school for only half a day, either in the morning or in the after noon for about 4 hours. So at Santepheap when the children aren't at school they are participating in English classes at the home. Generally a fairly relaxed affair and usually a lot of fun. When there are volunteers to help the teacher gets them to read with children 1 on 1 or to help with the activities in the class.
So I would arrive at the home at about 9am each morning ready for the morning beginners class from 9.30-11.30, then have lunch with the children at 11.45 by which time the morning school kids would be home. The afternoon class was more of an intermediate level so the kids did more advanced activities and a lot of sentence structure, past,
present tense etc - I really had to think back to the days of verbs and adjectives!
After lunch there was usually about an hour to hang out with the girls before afternoon class. I would normally spend this with Srey Roth, a 17 year old girl who spoke wonderful English. She told me about her family and school and I showed her pictures of Australia and we generally traded info on each others lives and played a few games of cards. Being able to just hang out and chat with the children was the the best thing about the experience and not just for me, they really enjoy practicing their English and learning about my life. These kids share a room with 5 others and they all sleep on rattan mats on the hard tiled floor, Srey Roth was surprised when I told her kids in Australia have their own bed with a mattress! Despite this they really couldn't be happier. The children have all come from very poor villages, they are not orphans but their families have sent them to Santepheap so that they can get an education which is something not available in a lot of
the villages, certainly not high school or English classes.
If you would like learn more about Santepheap, make a donation or even volunteer there you can have a look at the website www.santepheap.org for more information.
It was a fantastic 3 days, I just wish I could have spent more time but who knows perhaps I will get back there one day. It really makes you appreciate Australia and how very lucky we are to have the opportunities that we do - so kids out there study hard and be thankful you are able to go to school!
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