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C.E.S.H.E School in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After sorting out rooms and dropping off our bags, we headed out for our initial wander of the area we stayed in Siem Reap in search of dinner. On our way to popular Pub Street, we were stopped by a Spanish guy holding flyers. My initial response was to ignore him and his donation jar, but I’m glad we didn’t because it turned out that he was offering us a chance to visit the school where he volunteers.

The board out front

In August 2010 Cambodian English Teacher, Rure Rady, established the Cambodian English School of Higher Education (C.E.S.H.E) to provide free English classes and materials for students in the eight surrounding villages. Currently they have 270 students between the ages of 4 and 27 enrolled, 4 part-time Cambodian teachers and more recently a handful of travelers volunteering their time and English-speaking or book-keeping abilities.

At the time of our visit, which was only the second ever of a group of foreigners, there were two tuk-tuks full of people headed out to the school 7km outside of Siem Reap town. When we got to the school, the driver of one of the tuk-tuks turns around and introduces himself as the founder of the school. Our first lesson about the school; they receive no government funding and rely solely on donations and Mr. Rady’s income driving a tuk-tuk.

Rure Rady, founder and director, in front of the school

The children there were truly adorable, and while they had Cambodian teachers they were really anxious to learn English from a native-speaker. Something I’ve learned recently is that it really is best to learn a language from a native speaker, they understand the nuances of the language and it’s easier to model the proper pronunciation off them, picking up their accent at the same time. I’m still amused by this, but it makes perfect sense; they’re mimicking the way you say it. I still won’t forget Sam’s practice teaching classes where he had the kids mimicking his Australian accent.

What Rady Rure and his team of volunteers is doing is truly remarkable, offering free classes for village children who desperately want to learn English in a country where tourism is one of their largest source of income. We were given a chance to sit in on one of the highest levels and helped a row of children reading, pronouncing and understanding the meaning of the words.

How happy do I look?

The dedication these kids show, some attending three different schools in a day, well into the evening, just so that they can get a well-rounded education. For some of the students, however, this is the only education they receive, the only reprieve from their family farm. The school also acts a recreation centre, where village kids can come to stay out of trouble, play baseball with the volunteers, or simply hula hoop themselves into oblivion. They were all really happy to see us, and even happier to have their picture taken with foreigners. One picture turned into 100 as the kids were showing off their kung-fu, making funny poses for the camera and hugging us close as we posed for giant group pictures.

What they’re working on now:

Since they’re expanding quicker than their current space allows, they’re raising money for bricks to build another classroom 6×8 metres in size. They currently have 3 classrooms, meaning that the students can only attend 1 and a half hour lessons throughout the day. They have one toilet, a library with three computers and an open space for a playground.

One brick costs $1 and when I was there, they only needed $952. I’m happy to say that most of my Riel went into their donation box, and I truly hope that you, my loyal readers, can also see the value in this.

The entire cost of the project is broken down as follows:

2 tonnes of cement = $190
200 bricks = $200
2 cubic metres of sand = $80
3 buckets of paint = $90
10 8 metre long steel posts = $80
15 boxes of tiles = $90
12 sheets of metal roofing tile = $72
Paying labourers for 10 days = $150

They have more people willing to help than they can accommodate for; charging their volunteer teachers for only the basic room and board also makes it an appealing volun-tourism option. If I have a break from school and time, I would love to go back and help them build the classroom, or teach the kids English, or anything really that would be of any help. It broke my heart when almost every student hesitantly asked “see you tomorrow?”

How to reach them:

I know that I have friends, family and readers who care about causes that are real, who care about the well-being of children and who are passionate about bettering the lives of those less fortunate. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the causes worth donating to, and even then there is the question of whether or not the money will actually do the desired action. I can promise you that this is something well worth helping. As you can see, they don’t need much, and they’re trying as hard as possible to be completely transparent by outlining where all the money goes. (Even by taking pictures of the receipts of purchases made and uploading them to Facebook!)

Of course, the need doesn’t stop there. Since the classes and materials they provide are all free to the students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend classes, they are in constant need of money to purchase books, writing utensils and simply to provide electricity for those later evening classes when they can’t work by the light of the sun.

If you want to see for yourself, their facebook page is here: Ceshe Cambodia
The C.E.S.H.A website , AND another: Teaching English in Siem Reap

Rure can be reached by e-mail here: rady.rure@gmail.com

Money can be deposited directly into the school’s account, named Rady Rure at ACLEDA Bank Plc. # 3475-01-051075-15, Bic Code: ACLBKHPPXXX

Or sent through Western Union to Rady Rure, Thnol Chak Village, Kiensange Commune, Sotnikum district, Siem Reap Provice

Or, if you have an account, sent through PayPal, all you need is his e-mail, rady.rure@gmail.com

Make sure that you drop Rure an email to let him know about your donation so that they can put your name on the donors’ wall.

Student Profiles – Day 1 & 2 in the classroom

Teaching in general is not going to be an easy task, that is something that I was never counting on.

But what I was counting on was how rewarding it would feel when a student learns something and can display it in class with you. The last couple days I’ve spent in a classroom doing one-on-one teaching with a student. As soon as we get off what we’ve started calling the “farang mobile” because it’s carrying us (literally – “foreigners”) and says in big letters across the front “TEFL SCHOOL,” the students chose one of us and led us into the classroom where we sat down and started our lesson for the day.

Day one was kind of a shock. Not only did neither our trainer or trainers assistant join us on our trek to the school, but as soon as we got there, we started. We sat down, introduced ourselves and got right into the lesson. My student, Wannisa, or short-name Tal, was really shy and hardly spoke to me on the first day and it was like pulling teeth trying to make her comfortable enough to share her interests and daily activities with me. By the end of the lesson we were able to laugh with each other and I got most of what I had planned done, so it wasn’t a total bust.

The second day, we had to go through a number of assignments and have our student comfortable enough speaking that we could record a spoken sample from them. By the end of the lesson, she was talking comfortably and I felt really good about everything that we had packed into an hour. The students then gave us these super cute bookmarks with pictures that the teacher took the day before. I was really touched, but Renee was so happy about it she burst into tears of joy. It was a really sweet moment, and I’m going to cherish the memento.

This past week has been a lot of grammar work, like I expected, with some phonology and tips on getting a job and what a resume should look like. Next week and the week after we’re going to be going to a school every day to do one-hour lessons for our teacher practices and I’m going to have to practice my drawing skills so that I can get my point across. Not only do we have to draw on the blackboard (or whiteboard) but I have to make 9 picture cards that will be handed out to the kids to illustrate some vocabulary that they’re going to be learning.

As you can tell, I’m more stressed about the drawings than the actual teaching. What does that say about me? I’m not sure, but once I have my drawings down pat and my lesson planned out, it should (hopefully) go relatively smoothly.

Vietnam seems like a distant memory

So I’ve tried to post this blog 3 times by now, and WordPress keeps saving it empty. I’ve revised this entry so many times (considering that I’ve already been here 2 weeks and haven’t updated!) So I’m going to do a chronological entry of the first week and hope to catch up in the near future. Considering how much homework and research I have to do today, I’m going to keep it brief.

The first day:

I’ve arrived in Ban Phe, settled into a hotel with a huge bed, private bathroom and beautiful restaurant. The only downside is that it doesn’t have wifi in the room, and I’ll have to pay for electricity, but I doubt that I’ll be spending that much time in my room at night aside from sleeping and it’ll keep me from being anti-social on the computer. It will also hopefully keep me on my toes to get schoolwork done. It’s time to focus on everything I need to learn.

After walking around town and tasting some random thing that may or may not have been candied fish skin I bought all the necessities that I’ve run out of (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste.. blahdy blah) I showered, sat down with my book and a beer and just enjoyed the warm Thailand breeze before calling it an early night.

Starting school:

Everyone I’ve met that has recently graduated from the course, has told me to make sure I exercise my hand and wrist, because there is going to be a LOT of writing to do in the near future. I’ve already come across this with the daily portfolio entries, which are a lot like reflective journal entries on activities of the day.

So far, we’ve had a basic lesson in Korean, just to introduce us to the teaching method, and we’ve self-taught ourselves to speak key phrases in Thai. I say self-taught because what we were really doing was going out into Ban Phe and asking random locals how to say certain words or phrases. It reminded me of doing streeters at Humber, because most of the people in local businesses knew what we were doing and had seen it before.

Once we had an 8-line conversation, we had to teach each other our conversations using the same teaching method that we are learning. (Sometimes I think the hardest part of this course will be memorizing the method that we will be using for our practical teaching experience.) That was super stressful because not only did I not memorize my lines, I had to translate one with numbers in the hundreds. Just to say 250 baht, it was like 7 tiny words.

Learning Thai words has been a lot of fun, and the people in my course all get along really well. We’re a small group this time around, with only 4 people, but there’s American Renee, my neighbour and the woman I met during the airport transfer; Australian Sam, who showed up Sunday night using the computer in the restaurant where I’m staying and randomly asked if I was taking the TEFL course; and American Lance who I’m still trying to figure out, but is an Alaskan commercial fisherman.

We’ve been helping each other learn Thai words, and grasp the concept of the varying teaching methods, all the while, as Sam would say, “taking the piss” out of each other.

The rest of the week we actually practiced applying the teaching method to our own concepts and 4-line conversations, and while it’s frustrating trying to remember the order things go in, the actual teaching part of it is something that I can seriously handle. I forgot how much of a quick learner I am and went through one of the practices with only a minor error. I’m quite proud of myself, but we’ll see how things go when we put everything together and aren’t doing just 5 minute clips of an hour-long lesson.

It looks like next week we’ll be doing some more grammar and hopefully resume prep before we head out to a couple schools to create profiles of students, which I imagine would be just talking to them and learning basic things about them. Then the last two weeks it’s going to be practical teaching everyday. That’s 8 in-class lessons in the morning and the afternoon / evening to prepare for the next one.

I can see why the people who graduated most recently spent the entire weekend drinking…

Weekend on Koh Samet:

Just this past weekend, we got to enjoy our time off on the beaches of Koh Samet. We arrived late, as the last ferry was loaded as high as it would go with boxes of beer and water and food, found some bungalows and headed out to dinner and a poi show. Unfortunately I wasn’t very camera savvy in capturing pictures of these guys doing the fire show, but watching about 20 guys doing some serious acrobatics and baton twirling with giant sticks on fire left me with a stupid grin on my face for the better part of an hour. Those guys were amazing!

The weekend basically consisted of fire shows, food, drinks, dancing and lots of beach time. While I didn’t exactly lay myself out in the sun, I was able to enjoy the beach from a lounge chair in the shade where I could happily people watch. (Well, those people that weren’t wearing speedo’s.) We also went on a sunset snorkel, where Sam who’s biggest passion is scuba diving, handed me a sea cucumber after he’d managed to irritate it and it pooped all over my hands. (Of course, it didn’t exactly look like poop as it was white, super sticky and stringy and he told me it was something else…) Then we watched the sunset from a beach and it was seriously the strangest, most beautiful I’ve seen in a while. While the picture does it no justice, the sun itself looks like it’s disappearing into the clouds and never meets the horizon.

I plan to go back before I leave, considering just how close I am, and how little it costs to get there (100 baht for the ferry = approx $3), I could even make a day trip out of it if I didn’t want to dish out the money for a bungalow.

We’ll have to see just how much work we end up getting by the end of this week!