New Futures Orphanage - Takeo
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Volunteers came and went, the number fluctuated between 5 and 14 whilst I was there and each had a different skill or strength. Some who’d worked with kids before bought paints and did arts & crafts with them. Others just played football in the courtyard. I bought a load of kids books up in Phnom Pehn including some of my childhood favourites Clifford, The Magic Bus, The Snowman to name a few. I loved reading with these kids. They were so hungry to learn from you. The standard of their English was probably the best i’ve come across in the whole of Cambodia because of their constant interaction with the volunteers. There are English awards given out at the local school and normally more than half are won by kids from NFO. The main thing I tried to teach was the pronunciation of 'th’, ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ as the Khmer language is not a tonal language so they struggle with some of the harsher sounds. I got so animated trying to get them to pronounce ‘THHHHHHHHHHHHHHHen’ that I was even amusing myself! As soon as I lost my inhibitions about how ridiculous I must’ve looked to an onlooker I got really enthusiastic and the kids took to me. They’re so astute and I reckon that if you are comfortable, they pick up on it and in turn become comfortable around you. My contribution was to suggest a dedicated reading hour as when I turned up with my books all the other kids would want to steal the attention which made it difficult for a single kid to concentrate. So one morning I wrote a big sign advertising a dedicated time and announced it at breakfast and rallied all the volunteers to be at the library at that time. The kids mobbed us. As soon as they knew we were there for that purpose they came and they read and they asked questions and they laughed and loved every minute of it. My reading hour last over two hours and at one point there were almost three orphans to every volunteer. I was oh so proud. I sat down with one little girl, Sot Lina, and narrated the snowman to her which she was fascinated by as she could hardly imagine what snow was, and she was so engrossed I could almost see her lost in the story. It was the cutest thing I think I have ever seen.
I stayed for a week and spent about 6 hours every day at the orphanage either reading, playing hangman and pickup sticks, just chatting and more than an occasional amount of rough housing which they loved. I think I could have quite easily stayed for a month and not got bored. I was quite sad to leave.
But, onwards to Kampot with my new group of travel buddies from Orphanage, 5 UK'ers and 2 Dutchies.