I have been with Senhoa’s Lotus Kids’ Club for just over a year and have been in Siem Reap for almost 2 years. It has been wonderful working with the dedicated folks of Senhoa, both Westerners and Khmers. Watching the children grow and learn, and seeing the joy on their faces as they gain knowledge is almost indescribable.
In coming to Cambodia, my simple goal was to help the people in any way that was most useful. My initial role was to help set up the preschool space, add to the learning materials and educate the teachers about early childhood development/education in the pre-school program. I have also become a part of the development of the Community Afternoon Program, which serves children 3-18 year olds. I assist the director, Sophy, in decision making and general direction of LKC. The teachers are amazingly fast learners and they have quickly come to accept and embrace these new teaching methods after seeing positive changes in the children.
I’ve watched so many of the children grow and learn. One little girl, on her first day, just stood by the door and sobbed. Within a couple of days she gradually moved closer, observing the action, and by the week’s end she was cautiously participating. Over the next several weeks she would mostly play alone and didn’t seem to talk or smile. This gradually changed after a few months and now she has made friends, she sings songs, and she often flashes gigantic smiles. She has blossomed in confidence, thanks to the patience and support of the teachers. She’s a bright, organized girl who will attend the best primary school in the Fall. My guess is she’ll excel.
There is another little guy who constantly resisted participation in activities, and was often starting conflicts with other kids, choosing negative behavior as his ploy for attention. He seemed to have a insistent face of anger and sadness. Though it took time, intentionality, and structure, he is now the first to help clean up at program’s end and lightens each day with his boisterous laugh. I genuinely believe that young children will gain confidence and learn to make appropriate choices if they are in the right environment with caring and supportive teachers. He too will attend school in the Fall and I have no doubt he will be a willing learner.
These are just a few examples of the wonderful work the teachers are doing. In the pre-school program our goals are to get the children ready to learn, ready for school. We want them to have a thirst for knowledge, the confidence and persistence to succeed and a belief that they are competent, valued individuals. We want them to believe confidently that they can make a difference in their own lives and in the world.
After a year in Siem Reap, my role with LKC is changing. The teachers are now well equipped to run the programs without my direct support. I will continue to teach about childhood development/education introducing more in depth concepts. I will continue to be involved in the planning and decision making. And I will continue to teach Ratha, the Social Worker, the principles and challenges of Social Work. I will spend more time enriching the programs, including the professional and educational development of the staff. Perhaps I will eventually work myself out of my job. Sustainability is the mantra here and it will be a good thing.
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