“Your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are”.
Have you ever arrived somewhere and instantly felt like you belonged there? That’s how I felt the first time I stepped foot on Mpay Bay on Koh Rong Salome.
I was on a day trip from Koh Rong and I knew as soon as I got off the boat and stepped onto the pier I had arrived at a special place. As I walked around the village I took in the simplicity of how the locals lived and the laid back vibe.
The thing that struck me the most was the interaction from the local children. They were so desperate to interact with the tourists and eager to learn and practise English.
There is a public school on the Island but it was very clear that not much funding is going that way. There was no long term English Teacher and only part time Khmer Teachers.
When I returned to Koh Rong I already knew in my heart I was going back there to Teach the children English. The only thing was I was broke and there was no free accommodation or food in exchange.
Luckily two lovely ladies that have a guesthouse on the Island gave me a free bed and food in exchange for a few small jobs around the place. Without there support I probably couldn’t have started. (Linda and Kirsten I love you!!!)
I knew somebody that helped set up the charity friends of Koh Rong and lived on Mpay Bay. He vouched for me and the director handed me the keys to the School with his blessing.
I spent the first week in the school getting to know the children. The age range was from 5 to 15 with such a variety of ability levels. Some had very or no basic levels of English. Some could speak and only a few could read and write.
Due to previous volunteers passing through and teaching for two weeks at a time the children knew some vocabulary. There were big issues with basic phonetics, grammar and pronunciation.
Friends of Koh Rong provided me with some resources like books, flash cards and writing materials. Other then this there was no curriculum, printing facilities or workbooks.
So with no translator, teaching assistant and limited resources I started from scratch. I’m not going to lie the first couple of months were very difficult. But seeing the kids sitting on the school steps an hour early for class every day drove me forward.
After three months I had learnt about classroom management, I knew what teaching methods worked well and each child’s personality and what style of teaching worked best for them.
Then after 8 months of slow but steady progress it was time for the school to break for two months. I had a decision to make. I could stay and do a summer school or go and get some much needed funds. With visa renewal approaching and other expenses I left for the city.
Two months has turned into five. I am now in the city counting down the next three weeks for when I return home. The break away has taught me I need to make teaching sustainable on the Island.
To do this I will be starting a project which will allow me to support myself and other volunteers. The project will concentrate on teaching the children English full time. To incorporate vocational training and to give them hope and inspiration for a better future.
Please support me by liking my face book page for updates. By keeping up to date you may be able to assist me when I reach out for the much needed help the school is going to need.
Mpay Bay Community School