By William Stafford, Age 10, London England
My family has been volunteers with the Ponheary Ly Foundation for the last 8 years. Being the youngest in the family, I was left behind in the early years. But in the last two years, I was able to come. Wow, it was finally my turn and I was thrilled! I have watched my older brother and sister do some amazing things, like starting a football team or putting on a drama production. I always heard about what they had done. It was my chance to suggest something that we could bring that would be meaningful as a volunteer.
I like to play chess with my Dad, and this year we discussed with the PLF whether it might be helpful to introduce chess. They liked the idea. It was something that the PLF had already been thinking about and so we had their support. My dad and I came with chess sets, practical ones that would last in the heat and dust of the schools. We also decided to bring a large plastic board so we could try to teach the kids and walk around at the same time.
We arrived at Chey School and the Headmaster selected 50 children about my age for each class.
We taught 2 classes per day and so were able to teach over 100 students in total. The number sounds like a lot but Chey has 900 students. So I also spent time with the teacher, so that the school could continue the chess programme.
Here we are teaching chess:
Conditions were hard as it was really hot in the classroom (over 40 degrees) and most of the kids did not speak English. Therefore it was fun to figure out ways to teach them, with the help of a teacher who spoke a little English and could translate. I also used a blackboard to teach them how to understand how the pieces could move and how much they were worth.
What I liked most was that everyone was really excited to play and there was a great sense of activity in the room. The kids would call me over by calling me Teacher, and that made me feel really special. Other children watched through the open-air window. The programme really created a lot excitement.
Many of the kids caught on really quickly and within a few days, were beginning to play real games. As I said before, I spent a lot of time playing the teacher. This was great fun.
It was also really special because Teacher Sothy has now asked the PLF whether he can be the appointed instructor to lead the chess programme at Chey. I couldn’t believe it, what started as an idea was now going to become a club. I cannot wait to return to the PLF next year and see how the Chess club is getting along.
Time for Football!
Once chess was over, I had an opportunity to play football with the Chey team. This was really special, as the football programme was started by my older brother some 4 years ago.
We played in matches everyday, which was so much fun. It is rainy season in Cambodia and rainstorms are common in the afternoons. We even played after a downpour of rain that left the pitch mud soaked and drenched.
The kids were so welcome and great—they even gave me one of their football shirts.
Thanks to the PLF for this great experience.
I felt so lucky to be able to bring something that was fun and meaningful.
I really felt so rewarded in myself at the same time.