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Zara has just returned from her expedition to Cambodia – and it’s clear from reading this that she had the BEST time! I hope you enjoy reading about her time away, as much as we did in the office!

In both Camp Beng Pae and Camp Beng Mealea, a big part of our project work was going to see and teach the school children English. Learning English is so important for them, as it provides job opportunities especially in the booming tourism industry.

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We designed our own lessons, some of which involved the months of the year, clothing, parts of the body, and more difficult things like adjectives and prepositions. Their English was quite good for being so young (the classrooms had children aged from 8 to 14) and they knew most of what we were teaching, but we could all see an improvement from one day to the next in their confidence and pronunciation. Whilst learning English is important, we were told by our Camp Managers that the most significant thing we can do was to encourage them to continue going to school, and continue going to their extra English classes.

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Naturally, we taught them the hokey pokey, duck duck goose and played soccer with them to make it a little more fun (they did embarrassingly beat us 7-0 in one of the games but we’ll just say we were going easy on them…)

We couldn’t communicate much beyond a few questions, and neither of us could really say each other’s names, but they had so much fun with us, and they begged us not to leave at the end of the day.

I know that this is such a cliché, but I have never met a happier group of children. They wore the same clothes every day, owned one pair of worn-out sandals and lived in overcrowded basic housing. But all they did was smile. They couldn’t care less that we had shoes, or had branded clothes, or carried around drink bottles with clean water in them. They were fascinated with the blonde-haired people in our group and wanted to pose for photos and have us write in their books.

 

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As for our other project work, we largely continued work that was begun by the groups before us. We dug the last 2 metres of a well; we helped lay bricks around the outside of a completed well so that it doesn’t get too muddy in the wet season. We began the digging of two toilets; made a large concrete jar to store water from the wet season for use in the dry season; made pavers and paved a path in the school; made concrete rings for future wells and toilets. We also helped maintain community gardens and reforestation areas.

The wells and toilets were made next to people’s houses, and many children from the community came to help out and say thank you, which was humbling.

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A few days were also set aside so that we could see both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. We visited many temples, including Angkor Wat and those inside the King’s Palace. We also got to eat lots of amazing Cambodian/ Asian food and go to markets where we put our bartering skills to the test.

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We also visited the genocide museum (S-21) and the Killing Fields, where we learnt of the atrocities of Pol Pott’s Khmer Rouge in detail.

What a place Cambodia is!