It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the dining room at Narin Guest House and I met Penny, a fellow volunteer. She gave me the low down on what lay ahead and a few tips as to where the ATM was, where to buy cheap clothes for teaching and a suggestion to think about upgrading to a private room all of which proved invaluable during my stay here! So, it was ironic that I was sitting at the same spot on my last weekend here when Joe a new volunteer walked in and I did the same for him. Déjà vu.
Perhaps if was fitting that our last day began with a great downpour! The rains didn’t last long and the day turned out to be a beautiful cool day which we all enjoyed although it was tinged with a touch of sadness. We all wondered if we would ever see these kids again and wondered how many of them would realise the dreams they had so readily shared with us over these past few weeks.
Orphanages such as the Samrong Farm are places that give street kids, orphans and kids from poor families a real shot at life. This place was actually founded by a Dutch gentleman who was once a taxi driver. Check out more info at this link if you wish.
The English teaching is done solely by volunteers giving these kids a unique experience of actually meeting and conversing with travellers who visit from all over the world.
Each of us bonded with different students and were drawn to them for different reasons. During my weeks here I formed a special bond with a girl who calls herself Superstar! Born to Cambodian parents she is different from all the rest because of her skin colour. She is as dark as I am, which is unusual for a Cambodian. The kids would often joke when they saw us chatting and say…“same same”!!
I’ve met many kids here who have amazing aspirations and Superstar was one of them. A beautiful girl with a beautiful smile, she dreams of going to university one day and possibly studying management. I shared a few stories from my own life with her, because it was pretty special for her to actually meet a female engineer (unusual in Cambodia) who looked like her, had grown up in Asia and made it in the west. She made as much of an impact on me as perhaps I did on her. When she gave me a card with a very special message to indicate how she felt, it was all I could do to keep it together.
Piseth is another student who has big dreams for his life. He lives in the village close by with his grand parents and makes the trip to the farm on his push bike to join in the English classes because he knows it is the key to his future. He dreams of studying politics and economics and changing the course of his country with real leadership! He dreams of spending time in America, so he can speak English like a native speaker. We were all amazed at the depth of his essays, the standard he has already achieved in English here in this little village, a world away from the big city!
This year, the first student from the farm will go to university. An amazing achievement for them but also a costly one. It costs $500 a year for a student to get a university education in Cambodia. This seems to be quite reasonable in comparison to the costs of the west, but given the other pressing priorities, for many of them it might as well be half a million dollars!
And so we said good bye with a small tea party. We brought cakes, biscuits and cream pastries for a little feast after lunch. I think we will always remember the looks of anticipation and then sheer joy on the faces of these kids as they patiently waited for mama (the lady who cooks for them) to give them their share and then devoured it!
Penny also initiated a little hygiene project on our last day. The kids were given blue tablets to chew on, which indicates where you may have blind spots when brushing. The kids had a blast with this particular project..as you can tell from the pictures.
On behalf of all the volunteers during my time here, I say a special goodbye to some of the littlest kids who stole our hearts. Tong, Conkia, Srey Net and Nari…take care. Stay safe.
And so to my Intermediate class…
I hope you guys continue to dream and I wish you the best of luck in achieving those dreams we talked about in class. Dreams of visiting Korea, Japan and Siem Riep. Dreams to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, farmers and police officers! Good luck to all of you and I hope you keep working hard!
And lastly, I say good bye to my fellow volunteers and the staff and coordinators of this great project. We will all continue on our own journeys. Some of us will go back on the road and others will head back home to jobs, families and university. Even as we continue down the paths we have each chosen, we will forever carry with us the memories of the kids from Samrong Farm Orphanage and be thankful for this opportunity.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs,
fear the religion and avoid the people,
you might better stay at home”.