Teaching in Samoa by Henry Kehr
I spent two months volunteering for Projects Abroad doing projects in both Samoa and Cambodia. I decided to do Teaching and Care projects in both countries to get different experiences of how it is organised in two very different places with differing cultures.
Teaching in Cambodia
I volunteered at the New Hope Children's Association (NHCA) in the Siem Reap province for one month. My project involved teaching English to underprivileged children at the school, which offers them free education and therefore more opportunities for the future.
The students in my morning class were very young and lessons involved teaching them vocabulary by going through the letters of the alphabet and teaching them the numbers 1-20. To make this more fun and to keep the students interested, I played games with the class such as hangman, bingo and many others, as well as creating activities and various exercises for the class to do.
I found that the more creative I was with activities, the better the students remembered the content. They also had an art and video class twice a week. I then got a Tuk Tuk back to the Projects Abroad accommodation for lunch. However, it was very flexible as some days I went into town for lunch and walked around the market to do some shopping or went to an internet cafe.
My afternoon class was older and more advanced students. I also did regular dictation tests with them, as they generally struggled with listening to words and writing them down.
Travelling in Cambodia
I enjoyed going to the night market, relaxing by the pool at one of the many local hotels, going to a Cambodian circus, eating out when you fancy something different to local cuisine and even having a good night out on the town.
The weekends are also a perfect opportunity to see the beauty of Cambodia. I spent a day visiting the temples around Siem Reap, the highlight being the Angkor Wat Temple. Another stunning temple was Ta Phrom, famous for its magnificent tree roots.
During another weekend, with some other volunteers, I took the night bus from Siem Reap to the coastal town of Sinahoukville and spent two nights there. We took a two hour boat ride, including snorkelling from Sinahoukville to the island and hidden paradise of Koh Rong Samleom. We were able to have a coconut on the white sandy beach and a relaxing dip in the warm, crystal clear turquoise sea.
Volunteering in Samoa
Samoa was very different to Cambodia, mainly because the accommodation in Samoa involved staying with a host family as opposed to a volunteer villa, so you are constantly living the life of a local family. I arrived in Apia, Upolu Samoa at the beginning of February and within minutes of disembarking the aircraft I was greeted by the tropical Samoan music at the baggage claim area.
An extremely friendly member of the Projects Abroad team picked me up from the airport and we went straight into the induction. After my induction I met my host family and got settled into their crazy and fun family life. Arriving on a Wednesday was very beneficial because it is the night of the weekly volunteer dinner. We went out for a beautiful meal in a beachside restaurant and I had a chance to meet the other volunteers.
Teaching in Samoa
I volunteered at the Fiamalamalama School for the intellectually disabled in Apia, Samoa for one month. My project involved teaching various subjects to disabled children including English and Maths, as well as life skills such as cleaning. This is to make them feel like valued members of society and to teach them to use their disability as a strength in their bright futures.
As soon as I arrived at school we had a school assembly introducing the children to the new day by singing a song and praying. At 9am all the children were split into their classes to start the working day. Most classes started with Maths class and changed the subjects they taught every thirty minutes to keep the children intellectually stimulated so they didn't get bored.
At 9:30am the school had morning tea where everyone had a snack and a half an hour break. Lessons resumed at 10am for two and a half hours, including the occasional break for a dance and to play some sports to keep the children's brains stimulated. As volunteers, our role was to teach the class when the teachers were busy and help the struggling children in the class.
Adventures in Samoa
During the week after work, the other volunteers and I planned an itinerary of activities to do each week so we never got bored. We went to the pappasea sliding rocks and slid down waterfalls, visited and swam in the spectacular To Sua ocean trenches, took part in cardio boxing workout classes, went to the Apollo cinema to get a movie and air con fix and ate a lot of food at many of the restaurants around town.
During my first weekend in Samoa, we took a ferry to the largest and more remote Island of Savai'i, rented a car and drove down the coastal road to stay in a traditional Samoan beach Fale. It was beautifully tranquil and peaceful to dip in the sea with no other people around. Sleeping in the open air and falling asleep to the sound of the calm ocean was wonderfully relaxing and a real Samoan experience.
The volunteer work has made a phenomenal difference in the lives of the children that attended the schools in both countries. Having only been there for one month each, I can still see the improvement in their English. The more volunteers that participate in work like this, the more the children have the opportunity to improve their lives and futures.
There definitely is something for everyone during the Projects Abroad experience in Cambodia and Samoa. This certainly was the trip of a lifetime and I've met so many amazing people and made friends for life!