By Elizabeth Weaver
Elizabeth, her Dad Leon and brother Liam spent a couple of weeks volunteering with PLF – this is Elizabeth’s account of her experience and why they want to keep returning.
The New Year is an especially good time of year to remember the charities that matter to us. It was only a day or two before New Year’s 2013 the first time my family and I saw Cambodia. We will never forget arriving at the Angkor Wat ruins in the moonlight, and seeing them unveiled as the sun came up. During our stay, we also met the people of PLF and the children at Knar school, and found an even better reason to visit Siem Reap. We travelled on the dirt roads from Siem Reap to share a craft lesson with the school children and to donate food. We were so impressed by the children. They sat properly at their desks, in their cute little uniforms, and smiled and bowed. We put our hands together and bowed too, trying to pronounce “arun suor sdei” (Good morning.) or “sok sa bai” (How are you?) in Khmer. The students listened very patiently as we went over the craft lesson with each class.
We decorated pencils to look like bouquets of flowers, something I had done at home in my own 4th grade class. By the time we left, all of us had fallen in love with the children and the school. My brother, sister and I right away told my parents we wanted to return one day to work with the children again.
We live half way around the world, so it seemed like a dream to come back to Siem Reap. But when Ms. Carlson said that PLF was looking for more volunteers, it was almost like a sign. We came back to Siem Reap last August; my father, my brother and I. We spent two weeks at the Seven Candles Guesthouse and going back and forth to the Tchey school to work with 10- 11- and 12-year old students. My father and brother taught Lego Robotics, a pastime of theirs at home. We were able to bring and donate equipment as well. In no time the kids were assembling and programming. They were able to make the robots move a certain number of steps or degrees, or to turn, all based on programming the robots to recognise colour, touch or sonar!
I assisted in Robotics but I also volunteered with my own classes, too. One project I planned was to make and decorate a set of English alphabet cards. I was surprised by how many words the children knew for each letter, and how enthusiastically they shared as we created word lists on the board each day. Using pencils, crayons and markers, they colourfully decorated each letter card, too. The set of cards is bound in a ring, and I hope they have them and use them for a long time, or maybe even their siblings will. We also did Art projects like making leaf-print t-shirts. First we gathered assorted leaves from the school courtyard. Then, we painted the backs of the leaves in bright colours. Using shirts bought locally, the kids pressed the painted leaves into designs onto white T-shirts. They did a beautiful job and made something useful, too.
We stayed at Seven Candles guesthouse during our two weeks volunteering and it was a very special place, run by the friendly Ly family. We had fun playing chess with the staff and Tuktuk drivers at Seven Candles. Meeting and talking to Ponheary was a highlight of our trip. We had some downtime, and we saw the wonderful and original local “circus”, Phare. We also travelled to see the countryside and our TukTuk driver Esa’s hometown.
We want to thank Ponheary, Lori, Jacqui, Esa and everyone at PLF, and of course, Saveth and the other teachers at Tchey, and all the terrific students we met, for the wonderful experience we had. One thing we really appreciate is PLF’s emphasis on volunteering in ways that are best for the kids. You can be sure that you will have an unforgettable time volunteering, and that your time and hard work are truly helpful and meaningful.
We loved our first visit to Siem Reap, but our second visit was even more special. We look forward to coming back again!
Elizabeth Weaver, 13