Although all schools and community centres in Cambodia were forced to close in March 2020 for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and did not fully reopen until 2022, Treak Community Centre continued to offer support to their community in many ways, ranging from online teaching and the distribution of work to their school students, to sharing seeds and teaching local people how to grow their own food. The remote support they received from volunteers proved invaluable and at the request of Treak Community Centre this method of volunteering continued even after the pandemic ended.
Our local partner in Cambodia says:
With Covid-19 closing schools and making international travel virtually impossible, the teachers at Treak Community Centre trialled online classes for our students in addition to producing and handing out worksheets each week.
A key component of these activities has been the help we've received from volunteers who have been unable to travel to Cambodia and who have connected with our staff and students through a variety of online platforms.
These "evolunteering" activities bring us many benefits. They:
1. Enable volunteers to share their skills and experiences with our staff and students, thereby continuing the cultural exchange that has proved so beneficial to all parties
2. Demonstrate that people don't have to be present physically to offer their help
3. Help our students and staff to become familiar and comfortable with using technology for learning
4. Develop our teachers' skills as they have to learn new ways of teaching and working with volunteers
5. Benefit the wider community as we are now getting enquiries and general interest in online learning from parents in the village who hear about our classes from their children
6. Help prepare our students for a post Covid world where we expect there will be less travel and more online working of all types. Interacting online with volunteers, learning together and overcoming the challenges, will be of enormous benefit for our students and staff alike
Treak Community Centre is all about creating opportunities for local people, rather than dependency. The project is ongoing and works to help people learn new skills, also increasing their own abilities, self-confidence and feelings of self-worth in the hope that these attributes will enable them to take control of their own futures. The education programmes at Treak enable local village people to obtain decent jobs, especially in the tourism industry in nearby Siem Reap. These jobs are helping to break the cycle of poverty that runs across much of rural Cambodia.
Treak Community Centre operates the following programmes, all of which are free for the students:
School - focusing on teaching English, general studies and personal and social education (around 300 children)
Nursery - kindergarten education for 120 children, especially for the poorest families, encouraging engagement in education
Library - many families in the village don't own a single book and the children are hungry for the opportunity to read
Community Support Programme - provides employment, training, and food for poor villagers
Though Treak's main activities are in providing education, as the centre operates in a poor village, they get people in real crisis coming to them for assistance: no money, no food, no baby milk, sickness, family bereavement etc.
Treak offers help through their Community Support programme, of which the main components are the garden programme - showing how people with little or no land can grow food for their families, the sewing programme - providing work for women of the village through the newly established social enterprise Treak Creations, and the brick-making and recycling programme - used to build useful structures in the village including the school itself, toilets for every home and even complete houses. It's most important function however is to enable people to receive help with dignity as anyone needing assistance pays for this through work on one of these community projects. The project manager, Salin, wants people to contribute in some way for the help they get by working at the centre etc.
Daily Timetable Monday to Friday
Nursery classes 8.00 to 11.00
English classes 8.00 to 11.00, (lunch break 11.00 to 1.00), then 1.00 to 4.00
Library 1.00 to 4.00
Staff meetings held every Friday morning for staff and volunteers.
All teaching staff speak good English and will help with translation in the lessons.
The school was on rented land with a 5 year lease due to expire in 2017. After much fundraising they were able to buy some land directly behind the current site and they have built a completely new school on the land that has been bought. This is now a permanent centre owned by TCC, built of bricks and concrete, including a school for the children which is especially important as the village doesn't have a government primary school. The Centre consists of a 2 storey block of rooms containing 4 classrooms, 2 nursery classes, a library, 2 offices, a meeting room and a seminar room for presentation and community meetings; there is also a skills centre, a playground and small sports area, and a small kitchen. The school is being built by local people, including making their own bricks.
The new buildings will enable the school to improve and expand their education programmes, and they are also particularly keen to develop ways to help the women of the village, especially those with young children to look after.
I would unreservedly and enthusiastically recommend e-volunteering to others. It is a very flexible programme that allows you to integrate it into your daily life and commitments. It also allows you to involve yourself in volunteering, for either those who do not wish to travel to Treak or other placements, or as a forerunner or ‘taster’ for those who wish to travel in person at a later date. It is a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned
. e-volunteer Paul
Read more here about how the volunteer programme works with Treak Community Centre.