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.)
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.