I apologize in advance for the long review but it is hard to sum up the experience in fewer lines.
Before starting the program we went to Phnom Penh and visited the prison museum and the killing fields which helped us to understand the dark past of the country. By knowing what Cambodian people have suffered and the impact it HAD on their education, we found the program even more needed.
Teaching English, why?
Before going to the program, I was wondering how useful I could be in a program based on teaching English, being Spanish, not A native English speaker and above all not having any kind of teaching background, but what I learned during this week is the following: The kids need to know how to speak in English, and we didn't need to be English teachers or native to teach them as their level and sometimes their teacher's is very low. Indeed, without English thESE countryside kids have a big disadvantage compared to urban children who have a better level.
Important side effects of not knowing English is that they cannot use Internet to learn by themselves, and they don't have access to any external source of information.
At the volunteer house, we could get very attached with some of the volunteer coordinators. They are all Cambodian from birth and always willing to teach us about their country, culture and help for anything we needed, I have hardly met people with such amazing smiles and I haven't laughed as much in a long time, believe me.
The kids in schools but also in the rest of the area are wonderful,willing to learn during the class and waving at me while I was riding back to the volunteer house.
I have only been on the program for a week so of course I didn't feel like I completely changed their lives back there. But I could really feel the need of volunteers. Me and my girlfriend were the first volunteers to be sent to the program, the first to meet the children and the teachers but hopefully not the last.
So one more thing I can do for the program is to write this review and hopefully convince some of you to follow our steps and make a real change on a long term. As our volunteer coordinator said: "it's all about sustainability"