A First-time Volunteer's Report

By Marlene Trenerry

When I stepped off the plane in Siem Reap I was quite apprehensive, not only was it the first time I had embarked on this type of volunteer work but I was traveling on my own for a total of seven weeks.

Firstly, about 7 Candles Guesthouse, again being on my own, I was hoping it would feel not only comfortable but safe. I need not have worried, from the moment you walk into the foyer and meet Kalyan, you feel like one of the family and that continues for your whole stay.  The whole Ly family is lovely.

Then came the ‘day’ the first day at the school (Knar). I was fortunate that I had been in contact with someone who lives in Brisbane who had volunteered with the  PLF many times and for six months before my trip, she helped steer me in what to expect regarding weather/school/children/conditions.

She always does crafts with the children and that is what I decided to do. She had sent me photos of different things she had done over the past couple of years, what I could buy in SR, and the level of sewing I should aim for. (Robyn,  thank you!)

Coming from North Queensland the weather wasn’t too much of a hardship for me. My tuk tuk driver Panya was wonderful and such a great help to me.

Then I met the children! Some were open and friendly straight away and others were very reserved and shy, but eventually they all came around, especially one of the girls who hardly ever smiled and the day I made her smile was special. They are so eager so learn it was a delight.

I tried to give them free range in that I would show them a sample I had made and then I just put all the materials in the middle of the table and let their imaginations run away with them. And it did! Some of their works were so beautiful and some students are VERY talented indeed.

My two weeks ended all too soon on the last day of term before Khmer New Year, when together with Sue from the UK, we were able to raise sufficient money to put on a lunch for the whole school. I have never seen so much chicken and vegetables in one place all at the same time. I must say I became quite proficient  at using the chopper on that day. If the children got even the tiniest bit of help to further their futures then I am happy.

So to anyone thinking of giving some time to the PLF, I say don’t hesitate to jump in feet first!

by Marlene Trenerry