Thursday, 23 February 2012


Well, I have finally started.  I am volunteering at the Painting Smiles School near Otres Beach near Sihanoukville.

View Otres Beach, Sihanoukville in a larger map

Painting Smiles School

The school teaches English Language to the Khmer children based at the local Khmer School.  A small two room school house has been built on the grounds of the local Wat (Buddhist "church"), with the land gifted by the Monks of the Wat to a British Ex pat who constructed the school with funds raised in the UK.  Facilities are very basic, (no toilets etc) and teaching aids virtually non existent.

I am working with the local Khmer teacher as a translator and quickly learning off another volunteer teacher. I am currently doing 4 shifts a week but this will change as volunteer teachers come and go.
Children starting to arrive for class
Why English ?  Cambodia's main industry is tourism,  English is Cambodia's second language and usually the second language of many non native English speaking tourists.  English speaking Khmer staff are in great demand.  Khmer's that speak English have a much better chance of finding work, as well as being able to attend further studies, thus ensuring they can better themselves from the extreme poverty that most find themselves in.  Giving out welfare directly serves very little purpose, helping them attain skills does.   Of course witnessing the grinding poverty that many Khmer suffer often leaves me in tears and wanting to help out with welfare directly, how does a man with his legs removed by a landmine make enough to feed himself  and his family?

School Painting

The school originally had one room and the other was to be used as storage / library, part of the agreement to allow the school to be built, but the English classes are so popular the other room was needed.  We need to paint it to brighten it  up first.  Unfortunately its been a bit of a logistical nightmare trying to get this small task done but I hope to have it finished now the rollers have finally arrived.

Painting the edges before using rollers
We have had to get by with one book per 3 - 5 students to teach, so I spent $21.90 from the volunteer money yesterday to buy a few more books and whiteboard markers to use when teaching.

Bridge rebuild

The small village that feeds the school recently lost the bridge across the deep creek, so a group of us helped the local Khmer to rebuild the bridge to allow the kids to cross, as well as the adults to travel to other villages.  The bridge is rudimentary but functional. No Government facilities here.  We were able to rebuild based on the kind donation of wood from an ex-pat volunteer teacher.  The local Khmer villagers did most of the work, with the local Monks supplying snacks and water for the hard work.  Awesome job guys !
Adding bearers and supports under the collapsed section

You can see how deep the creek is in this photo
School kids watching and enjoying a snack of baguette and banana
Cutting the bearers to length with a chainsaw

Bridge is finished 

Official ribbon cutting, with a Saw !


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