We are coming up to our one year anniversary of launching the first GVI hub in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. We first began here in June, drawing up plans and researching the community to ensure we created meaningful projects that tackled the most pressing challenges here. Access to education, basic healthcare awareness and women’s empowerment were most important to work on. In September 2018, we welcomed our first volunteers and since have had over fifty volunteers, established a whole host of projects and formed partnerships with several local NGO’s who drive and inspire our work here.
Our trial class back in July 2018
Our first time training new volunteers back in September 2018
The highlight has been, undoubtedly, watching this hub grow and scale up the impact we have. Our hub has been shaped by each and every volunteer, the guesthouse we live in, the students we work with and our learnings from the culture and community that happen each day. We have moulded into a passionate and driven hub with a focus on access to education for all. Our objectives have expanded as time has gone on to include ambitious aims in the field of healthcare, women’s empowerment, education and the environment.
Our classes have developed into effective, highly structured lessons, with detailed planning and preparation day in and day out. When we started teaching back in September we began the days with one class at the local pagoda, focusing on working with young monks who have joined the temple (often as a way for families to have their children educated and accommodated for). Now, this has begun four classes in the morning, teaching a total of 150 students from ages 7-70!
Back in September we had two classes in the afternoon that were powered by our local partner, BSDA. The students who attend these classes were selected as part of a scholarship to provide the most marginalised students of the province with a free education. Now, we have adapted these classes. Our first class now works on a thematic curriculum to account for the fluctuation in student attendance and the second afternoon class has been split into two to account for the age range and the fact our youngest students have never had a classroom experience before. Both changes have allowed us to keep teaching at a good pace, build up our students’ knowledge and watch our students grow into ambitious young people with potential to do anything.
Our first under 11’s class in February 2019
Progress in our classes: One volunteers catches a student up to the class in 1:1 tutorials
Since September, we have added new classes. We have created a twice weekly Girls Power Club focusing on providing vocational training and improving the confidence of young women in the community. We will begin our first intermediate all-female adults class from next week. In October we began to run workshops and since have ran workshops in all manner of important topics such as self-defence, bullying, stranger danger and CV writing. Our workshops have focused on topics we have recognised the need for or been asked to teach on and have gained over 100 participants on average. We now run seven classes each and every day to around 200 students.
Our first workshop in September 2018
Whilst working here, GVI have had the privilege of learning from the local community, our students and the staff of our guesthouse, who have become close friends with the GVI team. We have worked hard to immerse into Cambodian culture and have had the honor to celebrate many festivals here, attend Cambodian weddings and participate in rituals with our friends here.
Our first Cambodian wedding in April 2019
Celebrating Meak Bochea in March 2019
With every new hub we face challenges. Part of our growth was recognising what we were capable of at the start and building slowly- even if we wanted to begin everything at once! A major challenge we faced was how to ensure we were making progress: that our students were learning with us and we were creating positive change. In response to this, we rolled out monitoring and evaluation frameworks that tracked our students’ progress as well as their attendance. We also have our long-term volunteers and interns carry out research projects to continue to add to our body of knowledge on the community and the norms, practices and challenges that we can assist with.
Volunteers leading a progress test in March 2019
We began with ambitious ideas. We recognised the need for basic hygiene awareness as our students had limited access and understanding to hand washing or teeth brushing. To make this a reality, we needed to provide a hygiene kit for each student, and fundraise enough to do so. Now, we have raised over $1500 towards this project and will be rolling out workshops focusing on basic hygiene next week. This is just one of the developments we have coming up: we are continuing to expand and develop as we learn here in Cambodia. This year has been one that is full of excitement, successes and developments and we look forward to growing and making a long-term impact here in Kampong Cham.
Seven questions to ask before volunteering abroad with children
Volunteering with children is a rewarding experience, but it’s more than just spending time with adorable little ones. Before taking on this responsibility, make sure you’re prepared by asking these important questions.