Volunteer Reflections

 UWCSEA East Middle School & High School students visit Green Umbrella

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During the wee hours of early February 2016 , as planned, we met up at Changi airport to embark on our GC trip to Cambodia. This Chinese New Year break looked exciting for my group of friends and me as we looked forward to roll out some innovative and interesting projects for young students of science in a remote village in the scenic suburbs of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Along with two teachers from UWCSEA, we went on a short – 5 day – trip under the Green Umbrella initiative, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Cambodia. Collectively, the amount of work that was prepared and done to influence the lives of children and young adults in the Takeo provide can only be described as amazing and a wonderful experience for the group.

  We reached the Wat Chambok Bitmeas Pagoda late morning after an hour long drive from Phnom Penh airport. The cool breeze and tranquil atmosphere was soothing and we were greeted by a group of monks ,attired in austere clothes but with a warm and welcoming smile which reflected the positive energy and put us at ease. We were introduced to Venerable Sokrath,  Samrath, Samrong and Margot , members of the NGO, who appraised us of the situation within the commune and the challenges that people faced, but more importantly the impact of the change we were going to make as members of Green Umbrella, as we toured the Pagoda.

Soon after, we had our first meeting with some of the middle school students of the nearby Sok An Secondary School for some video making and editing sessions. Though they were shy at first, we warmed up to each other as we shot more video footage together and even the monks joined us towards the end of the session.  The day was reassuring and we retired to the simplistic, well-kept rooms allotted to us ; a first experience of staying in a pagoda!

  The following day we visited the secondary school and introduced ourselves to the 300 odd students by talking about our home countries and varied cultures in an interesting culture exchange session through which, both the Cambodian students and us, gained a greater understanding of the diversity and tradition in different areas of the world.  

  Following the introductory ice breaking session, we showed and donated resources for science experiments for the students in grade 9.  As a group, we demonstrated the simple experiments we had devised and much to our joy, we saw excitement, curiosity and the desire to learn in the eyes of the students as they willingly moved up and around the school doing the science experiments. The initiative and resourcefulness of the students could easily be seen through their enthusiastic participation in the question and answer sessions after every experiment.     

  In all honesty, my friends and I found this to be a challenging learning experience as we were conducting the lessons instead of the teachers, but soon found our groove and become better educators with every experiment that we conducted.

  A constant highlight throughout the trip was the delicious, modest food; prepared using fresh produce at the friendly local family restaurant.  The food serving/ portion size was moderate but it truly gave a hearty wholesome meal to everyone who walked in. Repeatedly armed with the energy from the splendour of the local cuisine, we would charge towards the next course of action with ease and enthusiasm.

 Another project we joined in was the evening English classes that would take place in the Sok An Secondary School campus. We worked in pairs to teach the students Basic English words based on a topic, such as animals and occupations through the use of games like hangman and bingo. It was great to see that the students were engaging in the lesson and enjoying immensely the  entertaining and innovative learning method, together with us.    

 In addition, at Karuna Kumar School (KKS) which has children from kindergarten to grade 3, we engaged in teaching and built  a sound garden and a flower bed for them. It was indeed a pleasure to teach and interact with the children at KKS because of their infectious enthusiasm and endless energy. Although making the gardens was tedious and difficult,the delight that was seen in the eyes of the children made it worth all the effort.

 Looking back on this experience, I could not be more grateful to the members of Green Umbrella who made this trip possible, because through this trip, I was reminded of the spirit of giving, that sometimes can be lost in the busy schedule and frenzy of our everyday lives and the simple satisfaction that comes with having done something for others. And I think I speak for everyone who embarked on this trip with me when I say, the work of Green Umbrella is indeed praiseworthy- the vision, initiative, determination and hard work of the pioneering team and the volunteers in the step by step building of the NGO and  their steady, relentless and selfless determination to brighten the future of people in the Takeo province. This GC trip was an enriching and humbling experience and with immense self-contentment, I whole-heatedly and strongly recommend it to people to join the cause and carry it forward to take it to greater heights!

  “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”  ― Rabindranath Tagore

Vignesh.R.Ravindran

AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE   April 2015

8th July through 1st August 2015. Madeline and Frederik from Switzerland.

Frederik

After a long flight from Switzerland to Cambodia we finally arrived in Phnom Penh. Sokrath (Executive director of GU) and Sam (Program Manager of GU) were waiting for us at the airport and we drove together to the organization’s place (Wat Chambok Bitmeas Pagoda, Putsor Commune). They showed us our room and we were very happy about it, although it was just a small room with two big beds and a fan. But it was better than we had expected.

After we dropped off our luggage Sokrath showed us the commune and Green Umbrella’s Karuna Kumar School (KKS).  He told us a lot about Cambodia’s sad past, about the poverty in the commune… Impressed by his words, but also shocked about the poverty and desperation we’ve seen during this walk, we went back to the Pagoda where we would stay the next 3 weeks.

For dinner Sam took us on his motorcycle to a small “restaurant”. This “restaurant ” was just a small room with some tables. The family, who is running this “restaurant” is very gentle and friendly. The food we ate, was excellent, cheap and varied.

The next day we went to the KKS and met the teachers and the children. KKS is a wooden building based on Khmer architecture and we were excited to meet everyone. The 45 kids are between five and ten years old. They are divided into a kindergarten class, grade 1 and grade 2. It is such fun to teach the children and to play with them! To see them smiling and being happy is so wonderful and made us smile as well. The KKS is like a refuge for some of the kids where they can learn and play in peace and calm, and forget the hard life outside of school. We also worked in the office of Green Umbrella, where we could help the staff. We created a new profile on betterplace.org, where GU in the future will be able to collect donations for their projects (see www.betterplace.org/en/projects/32069).

Volunteering for and with Green Umbrella is an experience that is worth it. We were there for three weeks and it never got boring. In this time we met a lot of people, who were all so friendly. They shared everything with us, although they don’t have much.

We can recommend Green Umbrella to all  Volunteers in the world. It’s a very small organization but this is exactly what makes it so familiar.

We want to thank Sokrath, Samrath, Samrong and  the rest of the staff to have made us feel at home and were so kind They helped us when something went wrong and made our stay so wonderful and exciting.

We admire your courage and self-sacrifice for your work. Keep going on!

SCIENCE  June 2015

IMG_3193 From  May 31 –  June 4, 2015, Pablo from Chile, Desiree from Philippines and Jianan Chen from China,(students from UWCSEA East, Singapore  volunteered at Green Umbrella. During their time at GU  they helped to set up a science room in Sok An Chambok Bitmeas Secondary School. Pablo, Desiree & Lebron worked with 60 middle school students setting up experiments for growing  beans and demonstrated  how to record experiments. They also showed students how to repair basic computer problems.  Presenting to the HS students about the culture, food, politics and life of their countries gave the students a deeper understanding of other countries. Pablo, Desiree & Lebron also taught English to students at KKS in the morning and the GKS in the evening. On the last day they shared with the what their school life was like back in Singapore to the the middle school students.

Creating Videos   Oct 2015

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UWCSEA East students again volunteered from 19th-24th October 2015.   Maria,  (Mexico) Goya, (Netherlands)  Cleel,  (Israel) & Barbara  (Chile) worked as trainers to our teenagers and teachers to create video clips. They also demonstrated how to use the internet for research to support working and studying. With KKS project they taught English and introduced new activities to support the PE program. In the evening they taught English at GKS project.