After spending a few days exploring Siem Reap as tourists, David and I volunteered at Angkor’s Tree School, a small English school for Cambodian children and teenagers. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had while traveling. The students were absolutely amazing – full of smiles and laughter, affectionate and eager to learn. I fell in love with them.
ANGKOR’S TREE SCHOOL
Angkor’s Tree School is a small school in Trang Village of Siem Reap. The school was started by Sokhom and his wife several years ago to provide English language learning to the local children, who otherwise would have little opportunity to learn English. The school started as a simple thatch roof hut with no desks or electricity. Now, the school has been transformed into a 2 room building with many desks (although more are needed) and electricity that provides for the lights and fans. There are nearly 100 students who attend Angkor Tree and are taught by Sokhom and his wife as well as many volunteers.
LEARNING TO TEACH
We spent a week at Angkor Tree School, teaching or helping to teach 3 classes each day. At first, I was intimidated. I have never taught a class before and on top of that I didn’t consider myself good with children. But I had a lot of encouragement and assistance from Sara and Charlie, two Brits who had been volunteering with the school for a few weeks already. And the students added all the extra encouragement I needed. There is nothing like getting hugs and high 5s from 50+ kids each day to make you feel like you are doing an awesome job!
Here are pictures of David and me teaching our first class. Lesson 1 was clothing and we played a game to help them learn.
They melt your heart. The students at Angkor Tree School are some of the most amazing kids and teenagers I have ever met. They are so sweet and full of love, so excited to learn, so grateful for what they have. Some have very little, but you would think they had the world, with all the love they show the teachers and one another. It was humbling to see so much happiness every day, and a good reminder to be happy always, no matter how much or how little you have.
Click here to see more picture of the students of Angkor Tree School and our time volunteering
ZOOP DI ZAZA
The best part of every lesson was singing at the end. Most days the students would request a song and “Zoop di ZaZa” was their favorite. A song and dance that ends with you sticking out your bottom, bending back your neck, sticking out your tongue and doing various other body contortions. Needless to say, it was hilarious to watch and perform. Here is a little video clip of Charlie and a few of the teachers and kids performing.
REALIZING NEW INTERESTS
The experience at Angkor Tree School was surprising to me. I didn’t think I would enjoy teaching. Previously in the trip, David and I agreed that we weren’t interested to teach English, and wouldn’t pursue it as a volunteer opportunity. We only gave Angkor Tree School a chance because we were unable to find other volunteer opportunities of interest. I’m so glad we gave teaching a chance. I will never forget the sweet smiling faces of the children I met. And it was important for me to learn that just because I think I won’t like something doesn’t make it true. It’s always good to try new things, especially ones outside your comfort zone.