Four weeks being in Cambodia was an unforgettable, amazing experience. Until now this experience has been the most fulfilling one in my life. During three weeks I went to different schools in the area of Kampoung Schlong where I taught English to children in the age range of 5 until 17. It is incredible to see how eager and willing to learn these children are. All of them are sweet, nice and do have a very polite, respectful attitude which provides a comfortable environment for teaching which is completely different than the Western world.
The schools vary a lot in different things such as school supplies or the presence of electricity (for instance when you would like to watch a movie with the children). It also differs per school how many children are in one class and which grades been put together. It is possible that first grade children are in the same class as fourth grade kids; this makes it difficult sometimes to teach.
As a volunteer you have to be flexible and creative at all times. For instance, the children do not have English books at their schools; therefore, you have to search for materials which you would like to use. You can do whatever you like with the kids; the best part about this is that it does not matter what you do because the kids will like it anyway.
Furthermore, it is important to make fun with each other meaning with the kids and other members involved within the project. The two project leaders Onion and Dustin are incredible, friendly persons who provide assistance and help wherever and whenever needed which made the project even more fun.
I spend my last week in the village where I lived in the cottage of an old lady together with the Cambodian teachers and other volunteers. This cottage is located literally in "the middle of nowhere" which also counts for the other cottages and schools. None of the cottages have electricity, running water, toilets and bathrooms. This means you are going to live back to the basics which is challenging but definitely worth it. There is one improvised school made of wood and grass roofs with no walls, windows or doors. It is amazing to see how the children still remain concentrated in this improvised school. Finally, the main lesson I have learnt is how satisfied and happy people can be with little or nothing and I recommend everybody to experience this as well.
--Nicole De Jong
In the short two weeks I spent in Cambodia were the best two weeks of my life. I quickly adjusted to the new culture and every day that I spent teaching in the classroom. I taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade mostly and I few times I taught a 4th grade class at a separate school. For most of the second week while I stayed there we worked on reconstructing the school and painting a lot. I haven't had much experience working on a project like that so it was neat to try it out! Even though the kids love in a tough situation they are the most appreciative and happiest children I have ever met. GSO gave me the best experience I could ever ask for. I never felt like I was in a bad situation and was able to have to best time while staying there. I didn't want to leave at all and tried to stay longer. I am already planning my next trip out there and hopefully staying for a month! I cannot wait to see all the smiles on all the kids faces again.
I will remember the four weeks that I have spent living and working with the Arai children and their families as one of the most useful and exiting weeks of my entire life. Which is quite something, knowing that during my working life I've had the opportunity to visit and work in many countries around the globe. What made these weeks so special? Was it the GSO organization managed by Dustin who carefully has selected the Arai project, in order to ensure that the 60+ children in the village are getting access to proper education. And in my case, additional english language lessons. Or was it so special due to the fact that living in Arai means that you are going back to the basics: No electricity, no toilets, nor running water but a lot of emphasis on community spirit and taking care of each other. Or was it the opportunity to really contribute - if even for a short period - to the improvement of the lives of these children and their families. To provide them with the attention that they need. To understand the way they live and give them the required support. Ranging from teaching, to playing with them, to build a shelter together, to providing shoes, to making it possible that a mother takes her very sick child to the far remote hospital, to buying a bicycle for a handicapped girl such that she doesn't have to walk the full agonizing three hours to go to school and return home. To be honest: It was special due to all these things mentioned above. And for the smiles that you can put on the faces of the children and their parents. And most of all: for the life-lessons that I already knew but became much clearer to me in the remote village of Arai: That friendship, attention and health are by far the most important things in life! So for everybody who reads this: Experience it yourself! Pick up the phone or your keyboard and get in contact with Dustin, as a first step towards this life-changing experience!
--Niek van Oijen
I spent the best four months of my life with GSO in Cambodia. Not a day goes by that I dont think of my students and the life that I left there. Every day I taught English to the greatest kids; resilient in that despite their unfortunate circumstances, they were always enthusiastic and playful. A country underdeveloped and impoverished, Cambodia is beautiful to me in a bizarre and unique way.
Being a small and rural based NGO, Global Student Outreach was the best way to experience a foreign culture. A glorified homestay, I touched and tasted Cambodia as the locals do. The staff became family to me making my experiences in Cambodia personal and tangible versus that guided tour feeling that I resent. I learned so incredibly much about the culture, history, and people of Cambodia. Those kids and my time spent with GSO touched my heart; I will never forget them and look forward to returning.
- Sarah Zemach
After having visited Cambodia for the first time in 2008 the idea of wanting to help the people, and particularly the children, in this country lingered on my mind. I was so impressed with their friendliness, their positive pride and resilience, and their eagerness to move forward that any contribution seemed worth making. And so I wound up, more or less by coincidence, in Battambang as the first Dutch volunteer for Global Student Outreach (GSO) to teach at two different elementary schools, Kampoung Schlong and Baydaram.
Morning classes in Kampoung Schlong passed off quite orderly: the children came to school on their bikes and in their uniforms and knew the score. The average class size was 16. But teaching at Baydaram, a new project for GSO where I was so lucky to be the first volunteer teacher, was a different story. There are no regular afternoon classes, but if a teacher is available all children (grade 2 to 6) are more than happy to escape from their work on the rice paddies to squeeze themselves together in one classroom. So on the first day, the class size here ran up to about 80! Suffice it to say that finding a way to teach so many children, whose age ranged as much as their knowledge of English, proved quite a challenge. But soon their eagerness to compete and show off was discovered as a way to teach them English by playing team games. And a - badly needed, unfortunately - tooth brushing workshop was also a lot of fun.
Teaching English to young children who are still in the process of learning their own language is a bit demanding, but using this opportunity to open their eyes and to hopefully bring them one step, however small, closer to a brighter future is worth every effort. The experience has left a deep impression on me and has triggered my desire to further deploy my knowledge and skills to help these children.
Last but not least I would like to say "thanks" to the GSO staff for taking such good care of me during my stay in Battambang and especially to Ho Nhean and Ho Heang for their help in the classroom. Couldn't have done it without you two!
- Petra Hollak
I can't imagine a better way to spend my time. I went to Cambodia barely being able to pronounce "Battambang", and came out with more knowledge of the country than I thought possible, and able to count into the hundreds from the exchange of knowledge with the kids. Not only is Cambodia beautiful in ways you would never imagine, it's people are extremely welcoming and grateful of those who come to help. The kids are the best part though: at the orphanage I was able to bond, teach and just have fun with the kids to an extent I couldn't have dreamed possible. The kids really become like your best friends; holding hands, singing songs and working together. I can't imagine my life without meeting them, they are amazing and really teach you that everyone is given the same potential, some people just need help to see that they've got it. With your help, this group of kids can do anything, and believe that they can.
- Anastasia Nelson
My experience with Global Student Outreach was incredible. I knew from the moment that I saw the smiling faces of the Battambang children that my time there would be filled with fun and laughter. The kids opened their hearts to all of us and made us part of their family. Working with them and and working physically on the orphanage location was more than I could have ever expected. I was able to connect with the children through songs, games, and learning. Initially signing up for my trip in January, I could barley locate Cambodia on a map. Today, I am well informed about the culture and history of Cambodia as a country. tI feel this trip has not only enlightened my mind, but opened my heart to the love of the children. I could never have imagined the impact this trip would have on me.
- Sophie Bandlow
Going to Cambodia was the best summer I have ever spent. I met the most amazing kids who changed my life. The enthusiasm and outlook they have on life makes you want to work as hard as possible to help them. They are the most amazing young people. Not only were the kids amazing, but the staff we worked with in Cambodia also. They truly love working with teenagers and kids. This work would not be possible without their contributions. I believe that every single child I met on my trip has a story worth learning, and they are exceptionally grateful for every little thing. We all take life for granted, but seeing these kids everyday made me see everything through a different light. I celebrated my 17th birthday with the kids, and it was the best time I have ever spent. They made it ten times more special then it would have been. I miss and love the kids and the experience.
- Nicole Ogaard
My four weeks as a volunteer in Cambodia, Battambang, were an experience I would not have missed for the world.
I was put to work in two different schools where I was an assistant teacher in English and did outdoor activities with the children.
We also did some community work like painting the schools etc.
Of course the schools were completely different from what we are used to. We had to improvise a lot, which made things challenging at times.
During these 4 weeks we were guided and helped by Dustin and Onion.
We learned a lot from them, had fun and they were always there for us.
I think I have fallen in love with Cambodia, this beautiful green country with the kind people. The children are so eager to learn and happy and grateful all the time, in spite the little they have. It was special that in only four weeks I had the feeling I could make a little difference.
In our free time we were able to travel around and learned of the impressive history of Cambodia, had a ride on the Bamboo Train and visited Phnom Penh.
Again it was a very special and unforgettable experience being a volunteer in Cambodia. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is considering working as a volunteer. And I will definitely go back again!
-- Rienier Berghoff
My experience in Cambodia was unforgettable. This kids were so welcoming and always wanted to hold my hand and play with me. I had a great time teaching the kids English and they were so appreciative for everything we did, always making sure to say thank you. Several days we worked on putting up and painting walls on a classroom. The last five days of my trip I went to a village out of the city to teach English there. It was AMAZING. One of the afternoons we went out tarantella hunting with some of the local kids, with no fear they would rip the fangs out of these 4-5 inch spiders. I loved being out there every body was so nice and happy with such a simple life. It made me think of how lucky I am for everything I have in my life. I think this is such a great organization and I would love to continue to volunteer and hopefully can come back next year!
-- Marisa Turner
The three months that I spent volunteering in Cambodia undoubtedly contain the most valuable moments of my lifetime. I spent the majority of my time teaching English to primary students, doing renovations on various schools, and occasionally doing work at families homes. The children that I taught are unquestionably the most eager students that I've ever met. It's incredibly exciting and rewarding being able to teach students who are enthusiastic about learning. Not only are they great to teach, but they are also unbelievably enjoyable to be around. With beautiful smiles plastered to their faces, they were always grabbing on to me, and despite their unfortunate circumstances they are the happiest children I've ever met.
One aspect that I loved about the program was our living situation. Instead of staying in a hostel or hotel, we lived in a home in a local village. Although we had certain amenities that the majority of our neighbors did not, we were immediately immersed in the culture. The staff at GSO are absolutely amazing and teach you so much about Cambodian culture. I became great friends with all of them and give them a lot of credit for my great experience.
The most rewarding experience of my life blossomed from the love that I invested in my classroom day after day, and unexpectedly the good that I did for my underprivileged students nurtured important concepts into my own life. Love cultivated with each broken smile, every whole-hearted laugh, and the unforeseen generosity I witnessed on a daily basis. I learned the ins and outs of compassion and was enlightened about the potency of simple acts of kindness. Best of all I received an indispensable supply of gratitude for the unseen beauties of my privileged life. The only regret that I had when leaving was that I hadn't stayed longer.
-- Blair Swearingen
My experience in Battambang, Cambodia is my most valued single experience of my life. I thought that one week 10,000 miles away from home would be enough, but it wasn't. I sent e-mails to my mother every night begging her to let me extend my trip. The children are the most loving, accepting and willing people I have ever come to know. Despite our teaching the children English, American games, and how to braid hair they definitely taught us so much more. They taught my Khmer and laughed when I pronounced the words like "a crazy white person", but they also showed me so many lessons about compassion, courage, living simply, and appreciating what you have. After only one short week in Cambodia I had to return home. As the plane left the ground in Siem Reap I felt a giant hole in my chest as though my heart was left with the orphans. I can't wait until I can come back.
- Sonja Postak
The kids at the orphanage changed my life completely. When people say they have a life changing experience at first everyone is skeptical, but I can honestly say I am a different person. The 14 days I was at the orphanage taught me so much. These kids are the happiest kids I've ever seen in my life. And in reality, they have nothing but themselves. Just having been able to make a difference by working at the orphanage and to share my time with them, was so incredibly rewarding. It was one of the most genuine experiences of my life. And it means the world to me to help support them. Please consider the opinion of a Cali boy, because when something can affect you this much you know it has a deeper meaning and purpose then just us.
- Luis Garcia
Traveling to Battambang Cambodia was the single most amazing thing I have ever done. I was working with the children of Battambang for 4 weeks and still wish I could have stayed longer. While I never felt homesick, I was emailing my mom every night asking her to adopt all the orphans and to extend my trip. Not only were we able to connect with these amazing kids at the orphanage, but we were educated about the history and culture of this country. After I returned home, I continued to educate people about the situation in Cambodia and I hope to come back and visit the kids again soon.
- Jenny Kopack
Going to Cambodia and working with the kids at the Battambang Orphanage was truly an eye-opening experience. I saw what life is like on the other side of the world. I learned the differences and similarities between our cultures. And I gained an appreciation for what I have. In fact, I had such a great experience I decided to return to Cambodian this year and I hope to return with Global Student Outreach to Cambodian yet again next year. I think it also worth noting how exceptional the Global Student Outreach staff is and that I truly believe that they genuinely care about their students. I am extremely happy for my decision to partake in Global Student Outreach because it has redefined my life.
- Alex Bush