INitiate- Cambodia 2001 (2nd - 16th Dec 2001)
Voice from our On-Site Volunteers
"Flying into Phnom Pehn we saw how flat
the city and the surrounding areas are. It's the rainy season
and a lot of the areas are flooded. Many houses are built
on stilts or raised up, but the schools don't seem to be.
Two of the schools we go to look more like blocks of bungalows
set in a big compound - rather nice. The grounds of one of
them is completely flooded at the moment and each time we
have to wade through deeper and deeper water to get to the
computer room. We can just picture ourselves standing in water
and teaching! - the water has been into the room once before
we are told. The schools are in poor condition and need many
repairs - some of the roofs leak, the walls are permanently
coated with a layer of thick dust blown in from unpaved roads,
there is little or no electricity and therefore no lights
or fans in most of the classrooms. The computer room will
no doubt be the best room in the whole school once it's finished
and one they will be very proud of."
Colourful stilt house on the way to school
(18 Oct 2001)
"This morning we set off to deliver computers
to two schools. Our students plus many onlookers were there
waiting - since our arrival in Cambodia in early October we
have been constantly asked when the computers would arrive.
They were all ready to help offload and install the PCs so
we had them installed and working in no time. There was a
palpable sense of excitement in the air, like at Christmas
when I was a child, waiting to play with my new toys. Everyone
was beaming from ear to ear and fighting to use the mouse
and explore what was on the PCs. It's easy for us to become
blase about owning expensive equipment, but this reminded
me of the excitement I felt when I bought my first camera
more than thirty years ago."
Our gallant students at Preak Eng School
(20 Nov 2001)
"At last we can start teaching properly!
With twenty PCs in two schools, all the students have their
own computers and progress is much quicker. But they're big
classes for our hands-on methods, so we team-teach, taking
turns to write, talk, help and scold. Everyone is enthusiastic
(it's still new I guess!) so we get good attendance and participation.
And the schools have tried their best to make us comfortable,
despite their generally poor facilities. We use the headmaster's
office for our lunch at Chay Voloman and he has recently bought
us camp beds to cushion our midday nap! Over at Preak Eng
we have been given our own key to the staff toilet (don't
laugh, it's a luxury over here) and they have placed a small
table in the computer room, which they keep stocked with bottled
water and fresh coconuts from the trees in the school compound.
It's the thoughtfulness of these small actions that is so
touching. I just wish they'd call us 'Andy' and 'Ming' instead
of 'teacher', as many of them are older and much wiser than
The teachers at Chay Voloman School - enjoying
the luxury of using a computer each (29
"Excitement and joy come in many forms
- we arrive half an hour earlier to class to find there are
always students waiting for us. Some days when they find us
working in the computer room, they sneak in for a quick practice
or they look over our shoulders to see what we are doing.
Our students here - a mix of teachers and students - are in
their fifties or as young as ten. The teachers giggle, laugh
and cheer for even a simple thing like opening a folder. The
students are quieter - you see smiles on their faces and their
eyes light up at every little thing that happens on the computer
and sometimes a ripple of delight passes round the room. If
you think their excitement and curiosity will be over after
a few weeks, believe me it does not end - they'll be with
us as long as we are here with them."
"At first we were not certain if it was
a good thing to teach people in developing countries how to
use computers - another mod con to upset their simple way
of living. But our students live in or near the city, so we've
to face the fact that they are exposed to modern society.
It's better that we teach them properly and for free, and
hopefully help them to get a job later. Some students take
it further - sending emails to family, friends and us - their
teachers. And if they get pleasure while they are learning,
so much the better!"
Our bright students at Hun Sen School love
having their picture taken (1