Here at Helping Hands Cambodia we have been having a great year so far. There has been an influx of new students joining our program, and the ones that were already here have come back refreshed after the winter break. The teachers have a very difficult job taking care of them all, but they are happy to have the opportunity to learn together.
As always volunteers have brought extra colour and joy to the school, and learned a lot themselves alongside the students. They have also helped the teachers and coaches put into practice their new ideas for activities. In the coming months we have plans to continue upgrades to the school buildings, and have more workshops for our students and staff.
With new students joining the school, our staff have really pushed their limits to consistently deliver better quality education and social care services to the whole community. Over the course off the last couple of years, it became too difficult for many of the older students to continue at Helping Hands. They need more support and have more commitments to balance. So, it is encouraging for everyone to see the new group of younger students coming in, keeping the total number of students just below 300. There are a total of 15 different class groups, which means the teachers at Helping Hands are able to dedicate enough time and attention to each individual. It is also makes the scheduling tricky, but our Head Teacher stays on top of that. It would be great to see our plans to improve the classroom and kitchen facilities continue. Right now, it feels like we are operating at full capacity.
Food & Farming
These months of the year have always been a hard time for farmers in Cambodia; the weather is dry and becoming ever hotter until the rain comes again. Many local people also say that they feel this season has been getting drier and hotter in recent years. So, we were lucky to have volunteers with us for many weeks. The garden continues to produce vegetables, and potatoes and pumpkins have been planted. Students and staff have all been responsible for their part in the watering schedule, and will be happy to plant more when the rain comes.
Volunteers are always helpful in the classrooms, but in March we also had one volunteer who specifically supported our social worker, Kong. She had previous experience as a social worker in her home country, so was able to share her knowledge about the techniques and processes she had used. From that we have made some developments to our record keeping and case follow-up procedures.
Earlier in the year we were lucky enough to welcome another volunteer who is a highly skilled artist. She painted full murals in two of the classrooms, and the desktops which really brightened them up. We also installed new whiteboards that are better quality and easy to erase.
There was a special event in February, the Giant Puppet Parade. This was a fantastic experience for our students, and showed off the best of Siem Reap and its many community development organisations. At the end of this month we have a school trip to visit and learn about one of those organisations, and the next of our staff training workshops.
HELPING HANDS CAMBODIA
Juggling school & family responsibilities
The last three months have been full of joy and challenges here at HHC. It is traditionally an auspicious time as the rains depart and harvesting season begins, celebrated with Bon Om Tok and the Water Festival.
It has been a particularly stressful time for some of the students, as they have had to balance their state school exams and family responsibilities towards the end of the school year. At HHC we continue to offer extra learning in a fun and caring environment, and have put together some special additional projects to help keep everyone going. The farm has been rejuvenated and a new water filtration tank has been installed. The teachers have received new resources and training, while some students performed in a play, and participated in a writing workshop.
In Cambodia, the academic year ended in November for most state schools. While Helping Hands remains independent, it makes sense to follow a similar calendar because the students also attend their local state schools. This means that our teachers aim to complete the material in their coursebooks and lead the students through a review and test in each of the subjects they are currently working on. They will then assess the levels of the students and adjust the placement and courses for the upcoming new school year.
It is also a good time to make adjustments to the course topics and update teaching resources. The English teachers meet regularly to discuss the progress of their students, and they are very interested in trying to bring new activities and technology into their classrooms.
Food & Farming
As the rainy season comes to an end, the land becomes more fertile, and ready for new crops to be planted. At Helping Hands, the students all work on maintaining the land around their school. They are assigned certain class times to work outside in groups, and the last Friday of every month there are no classes and everyone joins in to help with the farm.
The main caretaker of the farm is Phlong Nan, who is also one of the cooks and prepares breakfast for the students every day. We have also had a few volunteers that have come to help over the last few months. Now the farm is growing well again and with constant care it will provide herbs and vegetables that can be used in the meals. It needs a lot of attention, as any gardener will know, so we will be work hard to keep it going throughout the dry season.
Community & Social work
While we are very happy with all that has been accomplished recently, we are still aware that for many of the families we aim to support, life is a daily struggle. Our Social Worker, Voeun Kong, has been very busy meeting with parents and students for whom education can seem like a luxury that they can not afford. We try our best to encourage and motivate the students, and we can see that they remain keen to learn.
It helps to know that there is a supportive group of teachers ready to help them, as does the prospect of having new experiences that they might not find at a regular state school. For example, one of our long-term supporters recently led a series of art classes which were very popular. They made Christmas cards and rediscovered their hidden artistic ability. We were also able to once again collaborate with Writing Through, an NGO that offers creative writing workshops here in Cambodia. The students that participated shared poems, and wrote short stories about experiences in their lives that required them to take risks. One of the highlights of this year though, was surely the performance of Alice in Wonderland!
Here in Cambodia, our team continues to deliver the education program that is vital for the young people of Prasat Char village. The students have been able to maintain high levels of motivation for learning despite the significant challenges that many face.
Helpings Hands School has been continuing with the education program over the last few months. The students work diligently and are grateful for a safe and welcoming environment to study and grow together. In July and August, there was the additional excitement of seeing some volunteers return. Aline has been a long-term friend of HHC, so her presence gave the students an extra boost of encouragement and they loved spending time with her. Amélie and Polly were both new to HHC but came with great positive attitude and care for the students. Having native speakers in the English classes adds an extra dimension for the teachers, and they enjoyed practicing some new games and activities together. The teachers are constantly looking for ways to keep the students engaged, and there were some good discussions on lesson planning and curriculum development.
Behind the scenes, there have been a lot of small maintenance projects happening at school, so that the students and teachers can feel comfortable and provide a good working environment. The water pipes and some of the actual classroom buildings were in serious need of repair. One other important initiative has been making sure that all the staff have been updated about their employee benefits, and properly registered with the public health and social security services. We have also updated the breakfast menu, including one multivitamin tablet per week for each student. In addition, we have rejuvenated the vegetable garden. The rainy season has recently made this more difficult but stillongoing. Hopefully we can think about some more significant upgrades to the classrooms and resources soon, and maybe even a school trip. We look forward to the many challenges and achievements ahead and our continuing success at Helping Hands.
If you have any questions about our programs, please don't hesitate to ask.
Director of Development
We hope you're well and are enjoying the return to more normal life! We're feeling incredibly grateful to be back to providing our usual programme, and Cambodia as a whole is beginning to feel the benefits of the country having now fully re-opened to travellers. It's a welcome relief for many who rely on tourism to earn a living, however tourist numbers are still incredibly low, and many are still struggling to make ends meet. If you're feeling the itch to travel, now is a great time to visit! Without the crowds you'll get to experience a really unique side to Siem Reap and the temples! Get in touch if you'd like to incorporate some volunteering into your trip!
Inspiring and Motivational Careers Talk
Back in February, we were thrilled to welcome Chef Pardet from Haven; a hospitality training school and restaurant in Siem Reap. Chef Pardet kindly gave up his time to talk to our students about his own experience, as well as careers in the food industry as a whole.
Although a little shy at first, our students soon came out of their shell and began quizzing Pardet on various jobs in the hospitality industry. They even asked him for tips on how to be successful in other fields! A huge thank you to Haven, and Chef Pardet for this incredibly useful and inspiring session!
Phare Circus Workshop
With thanks to some very generous donors, Lise and Stephen, we were all treated to a true, once in a lifetime experience recently. Phare, The Cambodian Circus, came to Helping Hands for a very special day of workshops, followed by our own private show of their incredible circus and music skills!
In the days leading up to the workshop, the teachers were bombarded with questions about what a circus is. Our students' (and teachers) excitement came to a peak as the Phare vehicles pulled onto campus, and they eagerly watched as the equipment was unloaded! Our older students all participated in the activities, despite some doubting their ability to do it successfully. They rotated between three workshop stations, learning to juggle, do yo-yo tricks, balance on a wheel and even build human pyramids! After their recent talk from Chef Pardet, some of them are now eager to pursue a career in circus arts!
Our younger students were equally excited by it all, and we had to give out multiple warnings of "don't try this without professionals", because they too began crawling atop one another!
It was a truly incredible day and after a long 2 years of closures and uncertainty it was really special to see everyone having so much fun together. A massive thank you to our special donors for making this happen, and to the Phare Circus for such an engaging, passionate and exciting day.
Welcoming new volunteers!
After the excitement of welcoming back regular volunteer Kathy in January, we have since had the pleasure of meeting some new helping hands, inlcuding Steven. Steven supported our teachers in the classroom with English lessons, and out on the field with our sports programme. He was a huge hit with both students and teachers! As travel is returning to normal, we look forward to welcoming even more volunteers soon!
As always, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you for your continued support. These last couple of years have not been easy, but we’re immensely grateful to have your backing and encouragement. Thank you and take care!
Jess, Sopheap and all at Helping Hands Cambodia x
Happy New Year! We hope you’re well and are managing to avoid the latest surge in cases of the omicron strain.
At long last, we’re thrilled to be able to share lots of positive news with you! And at the risk of jinxing things, it feels like we are finally getting back to normal!
Only a few weeks after our last project report we received the very welcome news that we could re-open school, and on Monday 1st November we did just that!
It was such a welcome sight to see our young students back where they should be in the classroom! After more than 18 months of disrupted learning it’s clear that our students have some gaps in their learning, but their continued enthusiasm for studying and gaining knowledge has been truly inspiring. Our team are navigating the tough task of helping our students catch up as much as possible.
Our Full Programme Back in Swing = More Fun, More Learning, and More Variety!
Throughout the school closures, Khmer and English lessons remained the focus for our teachers and students. So one of the biggest changes and welcome improvements to come from school reopening, is that we’ve been able to return to running our full programme, with a full range of subjects!
Perhaps the most appreciated addition for our students are the more regular sports classes. Last year when we asked our students ‘What are you most looking forward to doing when covid ends?’ 100% of our students said ‘coming to school’ and a huge 88% said ‘playing with friends’ and/or ‘playing sport’. We’ve finally been able to fulfil our students wishes!
Another element of our ‘normal’ programme we’ve returned to are our monthly ‘work’ days. Once a month, instead of the usual timetable, our students and staff work together to maintain the school site. From gardening, to building fences; our students have the chance to learn valuable life skills, and they take great pride in the school site knowing they’ve played a part in its upkeep.
Our Fruitful, Green and Lush Garden
Our staff (and our students) have done an amazing job tending to the garden lately. We honestly don’t think it’s ever looked so healthy, or produced so much. There is an abundance of tasty vegetables, greens, herbs and fruits ready to pick, and they just keep coming!
The Good News Doesn’t Stop There…
Following heavily restricted travel, strict (and very costly) quarantine regulations, Cambodia, and Siem Reap are now open to visitors, and this week we had the great pleasure of welcoming back our first volunteer in almost 2 years! Kathy, from the UK, first visited Helping Hands in 2019, and loved it so much she returned again later in the year. Having now become a regular volunteer and donor, and a true member of the Helping Hands family, it was with great excitement (from both staff and students) to welcome Kathy back to school. A true creative soul; Kathy always brings fun, exciting ideas and activities for music, art and drama lesson. She’s already made Chinese fans with some of our students - not only very practical for the Cambodian climate, but a great cultural lesson and tie-in to Chinese New Year.
If you’ve got the travel bug and are interested in spending some time supporting our school, get in touch at email@example.com
Last, but my no means least, we’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you for your continued support. These last couple of years have not been easy, but we’re immensely grateful to have your backing and encouragement.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2022!
With best wishes,
Jess, Sopheap and all at Helping Hands Cambodia
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.Start a Fundraiser