I will never forget my time at CCPP. The other volunteers truly became like family. Living in each others pocket for at least 5 weeks will do that to you! As volunteers, we lived together, worked together and every night ate dinner together down on the beach. You cannot find a more amazing collection of people as the ones that continuously revolve through CCPP, willing to dedicate months at a time to the amazing children of Sihanoukville.
The work day was split into shifts with the first beginning at 8am and the last finishing at 7pm. Sometimes you'd be doing up to 8 hours in a day, and others, perhaps 2 hours. The work ranged from teaching English to Art to Workshop and Maintenance and working in the Gallery selling paintings. No day was ever the same. Everyone was great at being able to swap shifts and if anyone wanted a day off to explore or travel somewhere, the group would be more than happy to help. However, most of the time, people wanted more time at the centre!
The children are completely amazing. They are so keen to learn and absorb everything that you have to offer, it really makes you realise how much we take education for granted in our lifestyle. It's amazing to see kids that will make games out of the simplest things and be so grateful for even the tiniest gesture. You leave feeling like you've made a difference to peoples lives. Even selling 1 painting at $4, is $2 to the family of the child that painted it for food and clothes and $2 straight back to the centre for supplies and lunches. I will never forget the kids there and even though it has been a year since I volunteered, I genuinely miss each and every one of them.
Coming a close second to the regular trips down to the beach, lunch time was always insane! With any child that was already at the centre, plus the school day switch (morning school into afternoon school)and any other child that was hungry turn up, most of the time 100+ lunches would have to be served to hungry kids! The volunteers could have lunch at the centre if we wanted and if there were leftovers, but most of the time, we would pop to a shop or local restaurant with so many being around.
Sihanoukville has a huge range of bars and restaurants (we even found one that did an amazing Sunday roast with apple crumble and custard!)There is a brilliant nightlife with the beach buzzing until the early hours of the morning as most of them run across the sea front. But most of the time you will be too tired to make it past 12am! If you don't start until the afternoon the next day though, then dance the night away!
You will encounter some hostility from some of the children working on the beach. One of the absolute rules is that, as a volunteer, you cannot buy anything from them. CCPP is fighting to save kids from this dangerous job and those who still work there purely see you as someone who won't buy from them! I have to say, their vocabulary when you tell them you work for CCPP is very colourful and creative indeed, but they tell you off and move on. Harmless yet quite entertaining would be how I describe their negativity. It is a shame that their parents won't give them the chance to join us and take them away from being in such a vulnerable situation. The best you can do for them, is not buy from them. As a helpful pointer, don't buy from ANYONE on the beach, you say yes to one and then you can blink and there will be ten around you, sitting on your sun lounger and trying to thread-pluck your legs!
With so many travellers and people, it would be easy not to feel safe but it's completely the opposite. The volunteer house is in a gated community and even though there's nothing dangerous outside the gates, you couldn't feel safer or more comfortable. The locals were all more than keen to help you with anything that you wanted or needed. They were friendly and sociable and many of them joined us for dinners. We were getting a bigger group by the day! The house was excellent. The beds are all doubles, the rooms are all large and spacious and the living area with a TV and DVD helps for those wanting a quiet and cheap night in!
The staff at the centre were incredible people who lived and breathed the project and did everything in their power to change the lives of these kids. They are amazing people, no question.
I was unsure as to whether the project would be in a built up community so I travelled very light but took things just in case it was very remote (wind up torch, walking boots etc) but these weren't needed. It is a perfectly built up town with power and plug sockets and roads and everything you'd expect from a town.
I plan to go travelling again when I have saved enough and really want to return to CCPP and help again. A girl I was there with has already returned to do a second month and recently the volunteers have been raising money for a young teacher there to go abroad and she is now currently learning in and travelling Australia. You can't make much more of a difference than that! I hope to return one day and continue to help this amazing project which just grows and helps more and more families everyday. A truly special organisation.