The Always Evolving and Partially Unwritten Five-Year Plan

Savong’s School

Note: Here is the follow up from Cry Baby in Cambodia. Sorry it took so long. Darn you real life for getting in the way of my blogging. 

You would think that as a teacher, I would choose to spend my time on vacation in any place other than a school with kids. Well, most of the time you would be totally right, but I have to say that without a doubt the best part of our trip to Cambodia was volunteering at a school just outside of Siem Reap called Savong’s School. After several communication barriers, we only ended up spending one afternoon there, but I wish we had passed on the second day of temples viewing and headed straight for the school earlier, because it was an experience that we won’t ever forget. (without any tears at the end of the day!)

The school was started by a young Cambodian guy who wanted to create a way for rural children to learn English, Korean and Japanese in hopes of one day getting a job in the ever-growing tourism sector in Cambodia. Savong began in 2005 and really has shown remarkable growth in the short time it has been open.  It has backing from several foreigners and support from people all over the world, which allows the school to provide free education to its students. There is no standard curriculum or compulsory attendance. In fact, I’m sure if Lucy Calkins walked in, there would be something wrong with their writer’s workshop, reading centers, and all that education jargon that people like to throw around these days.

And that was part of the charm for me.

The school is all about a guy who saw a problem in his community, boldly created a plan to fix it and courageously acted on that plan to make things better.

Take a look at our pictures from the day which give you a small glimpse into the lives of these children. (Some pictures were taken with the iPhone and others with the “good” camera, hence the difference in picture quality.)

Rural Cambodia, on the way to the school.

Rural Cambodia, on the way to the school on a dirt road.

The outside of the Savong School

The outside of the Savong School in rural Siem Reap.

Inside the classroom where we taught for the afternoon.

Most of the children were eager students.

We were learning the names for different animals. Try explaining to a Cambodian child about a white bear that lives in one of the coldest parts of the world!

The toilet at school.

When someone gave a correct answer, everyone else clapped!

Lining up from smallest to tallest to go home.

This little one sat in the front row in class and squinted the entire time. She was adorable and loved the camera!

My favorite picture of the day! Just kids being kids.

During the reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, the infrastructure of the entire country of Cambodia was ripped to shreds. It is only now that they are beginning to pick up the pieces and fill in the holes that have existed for so long. I’m not even sure all of them can be mended. It hurts my head to think of all the things that need to be done in this little southeast Asian country, but this school was one teeny, tiny step forward.

Looking back, I think the reason I didn’t cry when we left the school was that it was the most hopeful thing I saw while we were in Cambodia. I remember waving good-bye and watching the dirt from the road swirl around our van. I remember taking a deep, jagged breath and being so overwhelmed but at the same time knowing that I had just witnessed a little bit of amazing at the school.

You could close your eyes and actually envision the school growing and helping more and more kids, in turn helping an embattled nation get back on its feet again.

And no matter how far down you have fallen, the process of getting back on your feet is never, ever anything to cry about.

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12 responses

  1. Dennis

    Amen! I love this blog best!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    • Martha

      Love, love, love, reading your blogs!!

      March 8, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      • jgmcrew

        Thanks mama! (Glad someone is!)

        March 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    • jgmcrew

      Thanks dad!

      March 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM

  2. Andrea

    Sorry Jenny, I cried anyway 🙂 Just couldn’t help it!

    You know if you don’t go back to teaching, you could seriously do photography for a magazine. These look like National Geographic photos.

    March 8, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    • jgmcrew

      Awwww! Thanks Andrea! You made my day! If it wasn’t cemented already that we were going to be friends forever, it is now. 🙂

      March 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM

  3. Great photos and a lovely story. These are the moments that make everything else worthwhile – who cares about the ‘right’ way to do things – sometimes it’s best to just throw the rulebook out of the window and go with your heart.

    March 11, 2012 at 12:47 AM

  4. jgmcrew

    Thanks Katja! Sometimes I struggle without a rulebook, but living in Asia has made me better about doing what is right in the situation and not worrying about anything else. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    March 11, 2012 at 2:02 AM

  5. Nice report. I’ve posted a link to this blog on the http://www.savong.com website: http://www.savong.com/VolunteerTeaching/VisitorsLinks/tabid/103/Default.aspx

    Just love your photos. You make me want to fly over and do some more teaching.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    • jgmcrew

      Thanks Duncan! I was wondering how to get it linked up so more people could read about the experience! Thanks so much for having us. They are wonderful children!

      March 12, 2012 at 2:06 AM

  6. syafa

    Hi.. I am Malaysian. If i have a chance, I would do the same things you do.
    Thank you, you have done amazing things..

    October 31, 2012 at 2:43 AM

    • jgmcrew

      Thank you Syafa! You are very kind. I’m sure you will get your chance someday too! 🙂

      December 15, 2012 at 1:52 AM

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