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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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gemma-bleakley

         

GEMMA BLEAKLEY
British

Teaching English in Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia
         

Caitlin, our in-country support, was amazing. She was really helpful, supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic. She was particularly helpful in getting the ball rolling in terms of sorting out flights with only weeks to go!

As I want to pursue a career in teaching I decided I needed to do something outside the box, something that made me stand out. Going to Cambodia to teach English was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

It was a complete culture shock and very different from what I was expecting. When I turned up to the school for my first day of teaching I was surrounded by a sea of curious eyes.

The children were fascinated by my pale skin and freckles. After a couple of hours they had gotten used to me being around the small school, which consisted of one indoor room and 3 make-shift classrooms outside which did little to offer protection from the rainy season's afternoon showers.

I was shocked that these children are being taught English by Kmer teachers who can barely speak English themselves. It was then that I realised I had to teach these children everything I could in the short amount of time I had.

At first I thought they would struggle, but they amazed me everyday by how willing and desperate they were to learn. For them, learning English is not just another language, it is a ticket to bigger and better schools, and therefore a brighter future.

The school day was split into two halves, with different students in the morning and afternoon. Having to cater for 30 children between the ages of 4 and 14 all in one class was probably the most challenging aspect of the teaching.

The children themselves were so eager to learn and always wanted to learn more. They loved learning rhymes and songs and doing actions to words. This was a big change from the pages of copying that they had previously been doing.

It was heart warming to see the Kmer teachers sitting at the back of my classes taking notes, and then watching them implement aspects of my lessons into their teaching. Even though I could only offer two weeks of my time this made me feel that some of the changes I implemented will have a longer term effect at the school.

Along with teaching I also helped the school's director by proof reading and correcting the English on the school's website and I also wrote a template email to help him source more volunteers. I am hoping these small changes will also have a longer term effect.

By the end of the two weeks I could have a short conversation with the children in my class.

On my last day, the children bought me flowers that they had picked on their way to school and we had a small party. I have never met children who are so very poor but who are happy all the time.

They amazed me by their attitude to learning and their outlooks on life. I shall truly miss them and hope to continue supporting them through sending them resources and promoting the placement at university.

More Information about your Trip with Travellers
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TEACHING PROJECTS in Cambodia

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