My Experience Volunteering at Cambodian Children’s Fund

This post was written by Carly Nugent, who just finished a stint volunteering at Cambodian Children’s Fund.

From June until the end of August this year I volunteered at Cambodian Children’s Fund in Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey district. This was my second time in Cambodia – from 2009 to 2011 I worked for a preschool in Phnom Penh. I loved living in Cambodia, but was very aware of the poverty and wanted to find a way to give something back.

Returning to Cambodia in 2013 I found myself with three months of free time, and applied to Cambodian Children’s Fund. I was attracted to CCF largely because of the way it deals with volunteers. CCF usually will not accept volunteers for less than three months, and coordinators do their best to place volunteers in areas best suited to their skills. The second thing that appealed to me about CCF is its lack of religious or political affiliations. CCF has no hidden agenda – it is completely focused on caring for the children in its programs and making sure they have the best futures possible.

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CCF accepted my application and placed me in the early childhood education program at the CCF5 facility. This was perfect for me, considering most of my teaching experience has been with preschool in Cambodia. Over three months I became very involved with the day care and nursery programs. I started off by simply spending time in the classrooms. I ran lessons and activities for the kids and chatted with the Cambodian teachers. The day care and nursery students can speak a little English, but I relied a lot on the Cambodian teachers to translate. My own Khmer improved, as well! By the end of three months I had perfected the phrases: ‘sit down,’ ‘listen,’ and ‘are you sitting nicely?’

The kids at CCF are amazing – bright, cheery, and full of affection. It was heartening to see that, despite their difficult backgrounds, all of them were so full of hope. We sang songs, played games, read books, and even went on a field trip to the playground at Wat Phnom. When I first went into the day care classrooms there were very few resources available, so I started collecting materials. One morning I brought in some counters that could be joined together. Originally I had planned to use them for a math activity, but when I saw how enthralled the kids were with these little pieces of plastic I just let them play. The classroom went silent for half an hour as twenty-five kids built trains, houses, airplanes, snakes, crowns and more. Their imaginations were limitless.

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Of course, as fun as it was, playing games and speaking English with the kids for three months wasn’t going to be particularly useful to them in the long run. So with the help of the early childhood education staff I started running teacher training sessions and developing classroom resources. We ran lunchtime training sessions once a week for day care and nursery teachers, teachers’ assistants, and nannies. In those sessions we practised Circle Time activities, discussed important areas of study and how to teach them, and even made play dough. By the end of my three months I felt like I had really gotten to know the teachers, and had been able to pass on some practical skills to them.

I was very sad to say goodbye to CCF on my last day, but I hope to keep in touch and continue to help out where I can. Scott Neeson has created a really remarkable organisation that is enabling impoverished Cambodian children to fulfill their potential. I wish Scott and CCF the best of luck for the future. Thank you for letting me be a small part of an incredible team!

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