Before going on this trip, I had no idea what awaited me. We were going to a new school, a new area, and any experience the seniors could share with us did not apply. Russey Keo Primary School, a few hours from Phnom Penh, the capital, was definitely not how I envisioned it to be.
It was a pretty remote village with very few modern facilities, especially electricity. The first problem we had to tackle was the language barrier. I must say we were an enthusiastic batch, we picked up the basics of the language pretty quickly thanks to morning crash courses with our translator. We were also absolutely shameless in parading our broken Khmer to everyone we met. We had to teach the children so we came up with picture cards displaying Khmer translations and it was a very effective tool. By the end of our trip, all of us could pretty much conduct a standard lesson in Khmer!
Two days of the week was spent painting the school building. The dirty walls of the classroom were painted a bright yellow. It was exhausting and took a lot of teamwork and effort from not just students but teachers as well. Mr. Joseph Giri and Mr Fan showed us the ropes and ensured we didn’t harm ourselves with the heavy bamboo poles. The smiles on the children’s faces when they saw their revamped classrooms was the best reward we could ever receive for the effort we put in.
The most significant memory from the trip would be the Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA). We visited the houses of the village folks and asked them questions pertaining to their lifestyles. It was heart wrenching to see the living conditions of some but also the income disparity within the village was pretty shocking. The lack of clean water, space and education was an eye-opener to conditions outside the little bubble of comfort we live in.
Nonetheless, the appreciation and affection that the staff and children showered upon us were endless. The care-free attitude and determination in the children was truly inspiring. The trip would not have been this fruitful without all the effort and support from every single member of the Project ImPac team and it is definitely a trip i would happily repeat again.