Nancy Curtin and her family have been volunteering with the PLF for 3 years, during which time they have witnessed Tchey school progress immensely. This year, they wanted to do something different during their visit, so they decided to host an art class.
By Nancy Curtin and Family
Three years ago when we first volunteered with the Ponheary Ly Foundation, we taught at Tchey School, a small village school just outside Siem Reap. At that time, the school needed everything. There were only about 200 children in attendance, most without uniforms, many malnourished, and only a handful of poorly trained teachers, many of which did not appear on a regular basis. In what might be regarded at the catchment area of Tchey, there might have been a further 1000 who should have been in school. In others words, many children in the surrounding village did not attend school, but worked with their parents in the fields, in basic subsistence living conditions.
The Foundation’s first priorities were to get kid healthy, provide uniforms and get a proper stream of teachers to provide the basics of an education. Over the years, we have watched as this has become a reality, and the school has grown to over 900 children in size, taking in children from 5 neighboring villages.
With the help of the Foundation and other volunteer and support groups, today the school has range of classrooms, a small computer room (powered by solar panels), some full-time teachers to teach the Khmer curriculum and a few electives such as English and computers (the latter of which are supplemented by the stream of volunteers who come each year to provide their time) and an incredibly dedicated headmaster (who sleeps at the school with the children who have no parents). The school today is beginning to look like a real school.
During our stay here as volunteers this time, we wanted to do something a bit different at Tchey and this year chose to host an art class. The children three years ago barely had pens to write with, so the concept of coloured pens and paint was a wonderful novelty.
Ponheary came up with the idea of making post cards that could be sold to raise money for the school and the kids loved the idea that their art work might be sent around the world. Captured below are just some of the images of the cards produced by the children. Incredible to me was the precision with which each child approached the task and the seeming innate, natural artistic ability displayed. The children, who have never had an art lesson before, were drawing free hand complex images, many using shading and perspective techniques which seem to come instinctively.
As the week drew to an end and we collected the art work, it made me realise that we had but touched the surface of what could be. What we take for granted as part of any school program in the West is largely new territory here in Cambodia. I dream for the day when all Cambodian children can have this experience, but I also take some comfort in knowing that in some small way, we made a difference this week.
I am looking forward to return next year, again with my children to continue in whatever we can to help the efforts of the Foundation. For us as a family, we get 10 times more than we give and this is really the wonderful part of the PLF experience.