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Rudi Young and Catherine Neal, from Japan

A short account of an unforgettable two weeks volunteering at the Orphan Children Farm Samrong ("the Farm") ...
August 2009, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Choked streets, weaving tuk–tuks, noise, pollution, busy pavements, market stalls, new smells, the occasional glimpse of an orange robed monk. Wow, this is different!
At first we were a little thrown by this incredibly vibrant environment, but over the next few days gradually adjusted to the way of life in Cambodia's capital city. That said when we learned at our orientation meeting that we had been placed at the Farm we were really excited at the prospect of getting out of the busy city and working in the countryside (we applied for volunteer work through a UK company and could have been allocated to a number of different volunteer programs in Phnom Penh).
The Farm is in a rural setting a short distance from the centre of the capital. "Prepare yourselves for an hour long tuk–tuk ride" we were told. Rush hour traffic, exhaust fumes, bumpy roads, one hour each way ... oh no! However, although it was of course bumpy in places, the journey never failed to provide an exciting and insightful start (and end) to the day. The colourful market stalls, lively café terraces, old city architecture and teeming streets (horns being used like we've never heard before!) captivated us for the entire ride (which is in fact closer to 40 minutes). As the paved roads and city buildings gave way to dirt tracks surrounded by rice paddies and ponds of lotuses and water lilies, we could hear the high pitched cries of "Hellllooooo" from the friendly country children. A few corners later and the walled complex of the Farm would come into sight ... usually with a child or two waiting at the gate for our arrival.
Although only a short distance from the centre of Phnom Penh, the Farm could be a million miles away. Lush green fields (in August at least!), ox pulled carts and a quiet and tranquil atmosphere. It was in these beautiful surroundings that we met the 70 or so children living at the orphanage.
For the past two years we have taught English in Japan. Though hard working, the students tend to be shy and hesitant when approaching foreigners and speaking English. With this in mind, we prepared ourselves for a cautious welcome from the Cambodian children. We couldn't have been more wrong! Many of the students had already gathered in the middle of the Farm and flocked around us as soon as Savy's tuk–tuk passed through the gates. "Nice to meet you", "Where are you from?", "Hellooooo!" and of course "Cha, cha!" (teacher!) came at us from all directions. This immediate warmth, energy, confidence and desire to speak English encapsulates the spirit of these incredible children, and indeed the Cambodian people in general.
Although you don't need any teaching experience to work at the farm, you definitely do need energy, enthusiasm and a sense of humour to match their own! The children's desire to learn is quite unbelievable. Any knowledge we could pass on was keenly devoured, practiced and then performed to perfection! – new songs, hand clapping games, English grammar, Japanese grammar (!) ... They are SO keen to learn.
Many of the children told us about their future dreams and ambitions. They rely on volunteers to help educate them which is a crucial ingredient in helping them to achieve these dreams. Hearing that we live in Japan, the children were really keen to learn all about it. It was such a rewarding experience to see their eyes being open to a new culture – marvelling at pictures of samurai, ladies in kimonos, raw fish on rice ... Their enthusiasm for seeing new things and their interest to learn about different ways of life was refreshing, yet at the same time strangely sad as you realise how much we take this type of study for granted back at home.
Their excitement peeked when we produced hundreds of letters and origami presents from our students in Japan. Students in one of our schools had also donated their own pencil cases, pens, notebooks ... the perfect treasure to be found at the end of an English clues treasure hunt! Another school had made 'Teach yourself how to make origami' books. The children on the Farm really enjoyed learning this new skill and hopefully they will continue to enjoy it and pass it on to future friends. We found it useful to have an interesting topic like this to use when teaching English grammar. The children studied letter writing and, using the new grammar points they had learned, replied to their new friends in Japan.
From seeing the children's sheer pleasure in learning and being exposed to new things, we would recommend to future volunteers to take some of their own cultural materials with them to show, share and use whilst teaching. We believe that this would be really enjoyed and appreciated.
We hope that our account has brought back fond memories of your own visits to the Farm and for those considering volunteer work with WWCF we can't recommend it highly enough. We hope that a great experience awaits you ...

Ondersteuning vanuit Nederland:
Stichting WWCF
Pascalweg 49
3076 JL Rotterdam
Tel: +31(0)10-4199188
E-mail: info@wwcf.nl


WWCF
Bankrekeningnummer:
NL17 INGB 0004 655 035
BIC code: INGBNL2A
RSIN: 813164151


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