The last three months have kept us on our toes. We’ve witnessed political unrest, freak weather and bid goodbye to two long running members of staff; Erin and Sao. We’ve also rolled out a new curriculum, welcomed our loveTEFL teachers and supported responsible tourism in the provinces.
Cambodia remains a popular destination for tourists and volunteer teachers. Recently ranked as the friendliest country in the world by the Rough Guide, visitor numbers are swelling. So too is the demand for conversational English. This term we were really excited to introduce our new curriculum based on the realities of Cambodian life. David Picart, our Education Services Manager, joined the team in August and has developed a syllabus that empowers students to be proud of Cambodia and to talk about their lives. This approach differs to the traditional method of EFL teaching in developing countries which usually uses an American based curriculum. Our courses now also teach the students about the work of the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT). Lessons particularly focus on sustainable technologies such as bio digesters, solar lanterns and micro hydro dams.
We have also been thrilled to welcome our new partner, LoveTEFL on board. They sent us six excellent TEFL qualified teachers this term. We now run an internship scheme for TEFL holders so that they can gain experience of teaching before going on to look for paid work. We offer them constant support and teaching advice in return for their time and enthusiasm.
Alongside this members of the CWF team have been involved in a responsible tourism project in Kratie. Since 2012 CRDT have been running Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre in Stung Treng. Partnered with Tourism for Help it offers local youths the professional training to help them find work in service industries. This autumn has seen the development of a second campus in Kratie where Sambo and Erin in particular have been involved with the building of a new guesthouse. There is more information at www.letonle.org or @letonle. The guesthouse is due to open mid-December and we will keep you updated on plans for the launch.
Cambodia though has been tested by latent environmental and political challenges. Whilst floods are normal in the rainy season here the country has become increasingly vulnerable to unusually heavy monsoons. This year 1.8 million people were affected and over 120,000 were displaced. In a country that lacks social safety nets the effects on the livelihood and finance of Cambodia’s poorest has been severe. Farmers in particular have been plunged into debt. The role of the Cambodian Red Cross has also been controversial with some claiming the organization has not been pro-active enough in assisting flood victims. Here in Phnom Penh the rain continued until sometime after the Water Festival, the traditional end of the rainy season.
Meanwhile the country made international headlines as July’s election results were contested. The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), having held power for the last 33 years won 68 out of 123 seats. However, allegations of electoral fraud by the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) led to months of political stalemate punctuated by heartfelt demonstrations. Generally characterized by violence the protests peaked in an unexpectedly peaceful 3 day event in Phnom Penh. Calling for an independent investigation into election irregularities the march delivered a petition of over 2 million thumbprints to the UN Commissioner of Human Rights.
Semester 29 ended on a high with our volunteers thrown wonderful parties by their students. CWF also threw two parties this weekend; one at the volunteer house to say thank you to our teachers and the second, a farewell dinner for Sao and Erin. We wish them the very best of luck and hope that they will stay in touch!
By Eleanor Paton
Images copyright of Jason Jackson and CWF