Greetings from the Cambodian Children’s House of Peace!
I have been volunteering here as an English teacher and office assistant for communications for the past three weeks and I absolutely love it! I hope that I will be able to share some of my excitement about my work here through this short report on our organization.
The Cambodian Children’s House of Peace - or Santepheap for short, which means ‘peace’ in Khmer - provides food, shelter, education, health care and moral development to twenty children from the Siem Reap province. Most of the children do not have a family that can support them, and many have lost one or both of their parents. The situation of the children of Santepheap is reflective of the hard reality facing many families in Cambodia, a country that is still struggling to build a bright future after half a century of war, instabilities and atrocities under the Khmer Rouge.
However, Santepheap has been doing an incredible job to give its children better opportunities. In addition to the half day of schooling they get by attending local public Khmer school, the children have three to four hours of extra English, Khmer, physics,chemistry and math classes, taught here by local teachers and international volunteers. The children show an impressive will to learn more all the time and are very glad for the extra tutoring they are getting through Santepheap. When they are not studying, you will find the children enjoying free time around the grounds of the school, singing along to the radio, playing volleyball or helping prepare meals with the cooks. There is a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere here.
Santepheap has been very involved recently in making the lives of its children even more comfortable. A new building was built this past Spring to house the boys. They now have concrete walls and a proper roof that does not leak when it rains! The classroom, which is located at the back of the boys’ building also gained from the renovations. It is now a much nicer environment to teach in, with proper white boards. The wall is already covered with informative posters of all sorts. Because it is the beginning of the rainy season, all the children also got involved over the past few weeks in tilling the main pathways between the buildings. Now, the paths will not get flooded anymore and walking around the school will be much less troublesome when the rain comes.
Santepheap’s staff has been very eager to share more of their upcoming projects. They want to turn what is now simply a hole to collect rain water into a proper fish pond, and are looking into creating an organic garden at the back to the school. This latter project would greatly benefit the organization, because it would help them be more autonomous and sustainable. It would also be a great way to teach the children gardening skills, and foster in them yet another sense of responsibility and accountability.
While the Cambodian Children’s House of Peace benefits from a great staff and very ambitious students, it sadly not financially secure, relying on ad-hoc donations. Future projects thus can only happen through the generosity of donors. However, Santepheap has actively been looking for income generating projects. One of such projects just became reality, with the very recent opening of their own volunteer lodging accommodation, where I am staying at the moment, and which doubles as the office for some of the staff. All the money collected by having volunteers stay here goes directly to the organization. The accommodations are very nice, fully equipped, and is very conveniently located very close to the Children’s House of Peace, which makes it easy to go volunteer every day. I warmly recommend staying there if you are considering volunteering at Santepheap.
Until Santepheap finalizes some of its other income generating projects, I hope people would consider making a donation towards this great project. I can see the evolution of the children everyday through my work here, and I love the full dedication of everyone who is part of this organization, be it staff or children. Santepheap is working very hard to fulfill its mission, and is doing so very successfully.
Best wishes from Santepheap,
Studying in the afternoon