As most people reading this probably know, the main reason I came to Cambodia was to teach English at a primary school. I am volunteering for About Asia Schools, a non-profit organization that aims to make education accessible for all children in Cambodia, especially those in rural areas, primarily by providing supplies and volunteers. (For more information about the organization click here). Well, today was my first day back at school in over a year!
The school I'm teaching at is called Smiling Hearts Association for Children (SHAC). It is located in a small village within the town of Siem Reap, only about a 10 minute bike ride from my guest house, but it's in such a rural setting that it feels much further away than that! It would almost impossible for someone to just stumble upon it as it's quite tucked away. The school is not run by the government in any way and receives no funding from them; it's actually situated on the property of the school's "principal", a woman named Ally who basically opened the school out of the kindness of her heart. The children do not have to pay anything to attend but they do need to have a uniform.
The school's curriculum focuses mainly on learning English, as other subjects are taught at "Khmer" school which the children attend in the morning, and then attend SHAC in the afternoon (or vice versa). The school offers classes for kindergarten - grade four. Today I taught grade four in the morning and grade one in the afternoon - was I ever impressed with the kids' level of English! There were a few rambunctious ones but all in all the kids are extremely polite and well-behaved. At the beginning and end of each class they must all stand, hands together as if in prayer, and say "thank you teacher". Even though some of them are quite young they all seem to be aware that learning English is essential for them to get a good job and enjoy a higher quality of life.
It's only been a day and I have already been hugged, offered flowers and treats, and have met some very inspiring kids. I can't wait to see what else they have in store for me.