Thursday, September 18, 2008

Volunteering in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Picture 059
Originally uploaded by mc973
Our two weeks of volunteering in Siem Reap, Cambodia are about to come to a close. There's so much to say about this country and this experience, but internet time is limited. Soon we have to head back to the orphanage for our last afternoon of teaching.

My friend Debbie joined us in Cambodia. Here she is with a group of the kids from the orphanage. There are 67 kids living at the orphanage. We teach the kids at the orphanage for 3 hours in the morning. In the afternoon, Kristen and I teach English to teenagers, and Debbie motorbikes out to a school about 30 minutes from Siem Reap, and teaches the kids there.

Every day is a huge learning experience here. The country is still clearly recovering from the horrific events during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Their is political unrest and corruption yet many people are working hard to create a better life here. The poverty we've witnessed is intense. The average Cambodian makes about $1.30 a day. The average age of Cambodians is 10. 65% of the population has TB.

But all those staggering statistics aside, we have had an incredible time getting to know the kids at the orphanage. Last night they had a dance recital. Debbie was the MC. I gave a few speeches, and the 3 of us were beaming with pride because all their practice paid off. They did so well and had a really great time. This morning, because it was our last day, we slacked off a bit on the English lesson and made bracelets with strings and beads. Even the security guards and kitchen staff made them.

It's an understatement to say that it's going to be to sad to say goodbye to them this afternoon. I get choked up just thinking about it. Long after we leave I'll be picturing their sweet little faces and the sounds of their giggles in my head.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Voluntour Donation Update

In a few days we'll be heading into Cambodia and beginning our volunteer stint at WLS in Siem Reap. Our time will be split between teaching at SOID (School for Poor Children) in the morning and working at the orphanage in the afternoon. Of the 23 children at the orphanage, ranging from 5 to 17 years of age, about 10 of them are blind or visually impaired. They are joined by another 180 children for English lessons throughout the day. Without volunteers, there is just one teacher to teach all 200 children in 6 classes a day. We're looking forward to pitching in and helping out whereever needed.

A quick update on the donation front...

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has contributed. Because of the kindness of friends (and a few strangers!) our fees for the Habitat for Humanity work in Hungary were covered, as were our fees for our work with WLS in Cambodia. $1000 went directly to the HFH chapter in Hungary, and a large portion of our WLS fees will go directly to the programs being run in Siem Reap.

We are still gratiously accepting donations to help cover the costs of the rest of our volunteer projects. Our work in Khao Lak Thailand cost a total of $760, which includes a $200 donation to Volunteer Teacher Thailand . Look closely and you'll find us on the website!

Our work in Belize, Costa Rica and New Orleans will cost approximately $1600. None of this includes the fees for flights. So...if you or anyone you know is willing to contribute to the cause, please click on the paypal link and donate away! We sincerely appreciate it.

We can guarantee that your donation is being put to good use. In both Hungary and Thailand, necessary supplies were few and far between. Even a small donation made a big difference- the HFH chapter in Hungary bought a new, much needed, circular saw. Volunteer Teacher Thailand was able to buy materials like laminating paper, pens and paper to help develop more lessons for the students.

Beyond the monetary donations, we continue to develop connections with people where we volunteer and hope to continue to work with these groups in some way in the future. In our free time, we're often brainstorming ways that we can continue to assist these worthy organizations and stay in contact with the amazing people we've met. Unfortunately, our internet time is fairly limited, because we have hundreds of stories about the people we've met and the work we've done. We'll try to keep you updated as much as possible!

Thanks again for your support and please spread the word!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Blueberries and Banana Leaves

Pi is packing heat
Originally uploaded by kristenkk2
TVC partners with Home and Life Orphanage on Tuesday nights to do English education, play games, cooking classes, etc. The home was started by a couple who had an orphanage up north but thought there might be a need in this area after the Tsunami, so Home and Life was born. The "parents" looked no older than me and care for the 25 kids who live there on their own. Some of the children are orphans from the Tsunami, others are from poor families who can not afford to raise them. The kids all attend school and are also taught traditional Thai dancing, as well as the English taught on Tuesday nights.

The kids were excited and polite as they greeted the TVC crew with open arms. Well, actually it was more like folded hands...the polite way to greet or thank someone in Thailand. The kids names often translate to English words, sometimes they end up being beautiful other times unfortunate. Last night we taught the most adorable Blueberry ever. There was also a Banana Leaf in the bunch. Both were such hard workers and willing to give anything we asked a try. Although Pi didn't take his eyes off the lesson, he kept his hand on his toy gun...just in case anyone got out of hand I'm guessing. Supaporn and Poo are two of the more unfortunate names...however, their smiles and Khawp Kun Ka's (thank yous) made up for anything else.

We concluded our two week stint in Khao Lak and have moved to Railey, a beachy island with plenty of lounging and not much else to do. After a few days here we are off on what seems like might turn out to be an epic journey into Cambodia to volunteer again. Can't wait to see if it is just as amazing as Thailand...