Here’s a really rewarding thing to do if you’re coming to Cambodia. Of course you must see the incredible Angkor Wat temples. But while you’re in Siem Reap challenge yourself a little by spending some days out at Savong’s School.
Volunteers are welcome, though remember - we're here for the sake of the students, not for the sake of us.
It is easy to arrange. First, check to see if we've got spare places for volunteers. Sometimes we have a whole classroom of visitors from Singapore, for example. So check out the Volunteer Bookings Calendar. And Contact us – you can phone Savong direct 855 12 531 037 – and arrange a time. (Or email ahead, in case there’s a public holiday when school is out.) The school will arrange transport for you – bring a friend if you like. It’s more fun that way.
By the way, we expect all volunteers to read the Child Safety Policy, and to produce photo ID when you turn up.
Okay, now you've arranged transport. Now, you’ll ride for 25 minutes east, and begin to wonder: “where is this heading?’ First you go down Highway 6. Next you turn right, down a dusty side road. Through a village. At this point you’ll be wondering: “how am I going to teach the students? I can’t even teach!” You arrive at the school. You meet a teacher and they invite you to their classroom. They’ll guide you, and show you which book they’re using and which pages they’re working from. These are easy books. And the teacher is there to translate if anything becomes unclear.
But this is when the magic happens. The students are amazingly welcoming. They’re keen to meet you, and they’ll ask you a lot of questions. How old are you? How many brothers and sisters have you got? Really they break the ice for you.
Ice? You’ll wish you had some. This is hot work, so bring a bottle of water. The time will fly past.
The school operates classes in the afternoon. School begins after Siesta hour so be there by 1:30pm. Classes run from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. Make sure you get some pictures while you’re there, this experience will be one of the highlights of your travels.
What makes the experience so good is the way you actually meet locals and discover their enthusiasm for things we sadly take for granted. Education. Books. Classroom games.
Planning ahead makes volunteering more fun.
If you’re planning ahead, think about bringing something fresh or different. How about a photobook from your home town? Or a classroom game that one of your teachers taught you. And bring a flag from your country (an informal tradition here) or a lesson you’ve already prepared.
What does this cost? First; do remember that the school is providing free education for rural students and isn’t here to provide free experiences for tourists. Normally the school will ask a few dollars to cover transport and then it is polite to offer something on top– for example to suggest a comfortably affordable gift of books (we know backpackers aren’t made of money) or ask what items the school needs. If you can afford $US50 then tell Savong this – if it is $20 then tell him so that a: he doesn’t feel he’s hustling you for money, and b: you aren’t put in an awkward position. Expect to make a gift, (be sure it is affordable for you) and take a lead in the discussion.
A good way to conclude things is to go shopping with the teachers. So, for example, if you agree to buy books or stationery to the tune of $30 – then go shopping together and watch these teachers haggle more stationery for the dollar. It is really satisfying.
Longer term volunteers.
Most visitors to Cambodia visit the country for just a few days. However if you wish to stay longer, and wish to dedicate more time to volunteering, you are most welcome to include Savong School in your plans.
Longer term visitors build up a great rapport with the students, and you can develop lesson units that take the students forward significantly.
Contact us and we can help you work out a programme that suits our needs and your timetable. We understand that volunteers have needs as well, and while we cannot fund your stay, we can help you make the most of it.