Martina is BOOKBRIDGE fellow in our learning center in Siem Reap. In this blog post she shares her experiences in her last weeks in Siem Reap.
My Cambodian experience is coming to an end and nowadays I often find myself going back with my thoughts to all the months spent here and the achievements as well as disappointments. It has been hard and beautiful, exhausting and enriching, it was certainly all worth it and I would repeat it a million times!
I distinctly remember the day I arrived at the learning center Siem Reap, full of expectations and ideas, and I was met with a learning center in the midst of change. We were only days away from a marketing campaign to promote the English courses and there was still much to do and I literally did not even have time to adjust that the work just flooded me.
After 6 months, despite the unchanged appearance of the center, looking carefully at it now I see something is definitely different, and for the better!
Many things achieved
As for now, the budget issues have not decreased or shifted, however in the course of these 6 months we have acquired a new classroom and we are about to commence a new English course; we have fixed the above-mentioned room to transform it in a safe and learning-conducive environment; we have bought many more Khmer books and posters to decorate the classrooms; we have established new games and activities to be played in the library for the benefits of the students; and we have organized two teacher meetings and create a connection between the students and the parents through monthly English class reports. Sanith and I have dared to initiate all this because we firmly believe that taking the risk for a future-oriented educational cause is worth all the money we possess. Although, still these projects were cautiously and thoughtfully planned.
Not only has the learning center changed considerably, but the students as well, whom I now see more confident at talking to me, their English improved and their interest in the library and the activities increased. However there is still so much to be working on, like the establishment of more workshops directed to kids for their personal development as well as career orientation; the promotion of reading rather than playing or watching videos on the phone (something I noticed is a very strong feature here in Siem Reap learning center); the implementation of speaking examinations in our English classes; etc..
Some challenges remain
In the past months the remarkable successes were alternated with failures also such as reading or speaking clubs that never kicked in due to the extreme shyness of the students; a reading contest which turned to be a success in the first months and slowly wore off; a marketing campaign among the university students that did not bring the expected results.
Despite the initial disappointment and admittedly frustration, these failed attempts taught me how tough is the work of a teacher as well as social entrepreneurs who are trying their best to bring positive change to a whole generation. These 6 months in Cambodia showed me the strength and perseverance and determination of Sanith and all the other Community Heroes; they taught me that failing and standing up again is the best school and the only way ahead.
I am forever grateful to have been living this experience, to have met inspirational people on the way and to go home with a baggage of not only professional, but most importantly personal experiences and knowledge of a world far away from my own and yet so similar.
Thank you Sanith for having shown and confirmed the fantastic resilience and power of women; thanks to Sokhan who has generously and with endless understanding helped me adjusting to Cambodia and grasping its complex and rich culture as well as introducing me to his amazing family; thanks to the whole team of BOOKBRIDGE who has shown unconditional support and good advices; and finally thanks to the students of the learning center Siem Reap who has welcomed me here with the warmest friendships and opened my eyes to their love for studying and to their will to change their country for the best.
This is not a farewell, but it is rather a goodbye and see you all soon!