Sunday, May 29, 2011

Volunteering in JWOC's Free Classes

Read about Kaitlyn's experience as a Free Classes volunteer and the difference it made for her and the students she met...

Define the word helicopter. Use only the simplest English vocabulary. Do not rely on the use of illustrations as an aid. Remember that the education of a group of five young students lies temporarily in your hands. It is not easy. Sitting in a classroom enveloped in the rush of humidity that follows an afternoon shower, ten fervent eyes fixed solely on their volunteer instructor, I had the task of defining “the flying machine with a spinning fan on top.”

The obstacle of defining several words that I take for granted in my everyday vocabulary was presented to me when I signed up to volunteer at one of Journeys Within Our Community’s (JWOC) conversation courses. During this time students are encouraged to attend and improve upon their English speaking skills. Unlike in America and other developed countries, in Cambodia the prospect of a sufficient education is not a right afforded to every young person. Public schools are inadequately staffed and underfunded. Students who wish to receive a proper education must seek out instruction elsewhere. This is where JWOC comes in, providing free classes for people of all ages in various subjects including the two I volunteered for, English conversation and art.

I have had a firm grasp of the English language since I mastered “Hop on Pop” in my pre-K years; however, I have never attempted to teach my native tongue. It was much harder than I ever could have imagined. After being placed in my small group I found my hand trembling as I filled in the correct answers on my worksheet. Fears of being a bad teacher suddenly seemed very real and all of my English speaking abilities left the room. At the moment of utmost panic one student looked at me and asked a question that immediately made me realize why I had come to that classroom.

“Can you read it to me? I want to hear all the words.”

This was something I could do. For the first time since entering the country I did not feel like a tourist, unaware of the lives unfolding all around me. I yearned to help these students to the greatest of my ability. Driven to this place of learning by their own desires, not by outside force, these young adults represent the heart of a developing nation. In their company I developed a strong admiration for the work they had put into their futures as well as an appreciation for the difficult yet rewarding job of teaching.

The second class I attended was a Sunday afternoon art lesson. Stepping through the doors of the newly built library, where classes are held on rainy days, meant stepping into a world of childhood imagination. A circle of children and adults suddenly became a menagerie of elephant, dog, tiger, and cat impressions. With little notice the animals transformed into a session of “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” followed by “the hokey pokey” to the joy of all involved. Next it was story time. Read in both English in Khmer, we were told the story of a little bird that left his home, had adventures, and finally found his way back to his family. The story led to the craft of the day, the construction of colorful paper birds complete with feathers, moveable wings, and googly eyeballs.

Having not stepped inside an art class since the end of my fifth grade education, I found myself a little rusty. Not only did my crayons wander frequently outside the lines, I had to sneak glances at the young boy sitting next to me in order to properly assemble my bird. In the end I was pleased with my product, enough so to hope my parents will find a prime spot on our home refrigerator to display my handiwork.

I left the school, bird in hand, and wondered if I had in fact done anything to help the children I had volunteered to assist. Their art skills far surpassed mine, my offers to help with the difficult parts of bird construction were met with silent stares, and attempts to take photos of their work resulted in frown-filled poses. As the wave of futility began to subside a new thought entered my mind, perhaps I was the student in the class. Across all cultures, as innocence is lost and maturity sets in, nothing is ever the same. In a country where people are often forced to grow up too fast, moments of childhood enjoyment are the most important to preserve. Sometimes the best thing to do for oneself is to stop being an adult and take the time to make a paper bird fly.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In this post Sarah Lundgren, a visiting Journalism student, describes her experience as an Art Class observer turned Art Class volunteer...

I feel there’s some innate desire in children, no matter what culture
or country they come from, when given feathers, to put them on their
head. Be it stuck behind the ear, in a ponytail, or glued to the
forehead, kids will always find the simplest ways to entertain
themselves. And in a third-world country lacking structure and
intricate forms of entertainment, that’s a good thing.

Last Sunday, a couple of the girls in our group walked next door to
the Journeys Within Our Community school, to join some local children
to do just that. JWOC as we call it, is a non-profit group that
reaches out to the surrounding area through many programs, including
microfinancing, educational classes, and clean water initiatives. On
Sundays during the year, they offer a free arts and crafts class for
local children, a group that ranges in size from 30 during the rainy
season to upwards of 70 during the dry time. It’s not a big
compound---a couple sturdy, beige buildings surrounded by a tall wall.
But in the open center, there’s sinks with footstools and colorful
children’s handprints on the walls and a grassy area showcasing a
vibrant yellow mural that bring the place to life.

When we arrived, we were directed into the recently established
library; a small group of children, staff and a few volunteers were
already in a circle eagerly chattering. The library is made up of two
rooms that are open to each other, one open area with posters on the
walls and the other with a small table, toys and shelves of books. As
the group gathered into a circle, I stood behind them, waiting to snap
the shots of their happy faces. Above my head were decorations made by
the children, strung across the ceiling in an X. Out the glass doors,
I could see the grassy area and mural, a stark contrast to the gloomy
sky. The rainy season is just beginning here so the kids were inside,
but that didn’t stop their overload of energy.

After a couple words in Khmer, the volunteer in the middle spoke
English: “Fish!” and the circle erupted into movement---sucking
noises, pouty lips and hollowed cheeks, and flapping arms walked
around, one behind the other. Then the elephant, swinging arms and
shouts, and then the dog, panting and barking and wagging tails. This
continued for a couple more animals and then it was time for Head,
Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. It’s been a while since most of us ladies
have done the dance; I’m pretty sure the kids had it down better than
we did. We went straight from that to the Hokey Pokey, children and
adults linking arms and spinning around after sticking their left feet
in and shaking them all about.

These exercises help get the kids focused and learn English at the
same time. We’d missed the hand-washing session prior to class, but
we’re told the JWOC teachers help the students and children that come
to the school learn proper hand-washing and basic hygiene techniques
to take back to their homes. The JWOC staff, including the students
they aid with scholarships, give back to their community through their
outreach programs. At home, my service sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma,
does the same thing. There, it’s a group of girls that are
well-educated at a public university, not exactly struggling to feed
or clothe ourselves. Here, it’s so different seeing these people who
already don’t have that much finding ways to give back.

To calm the kids down but keep the English lessons flowing, the staff
have a story time---a children’s book read out loud, page by page,
first in Khmer and then in English. The kids interact, interjecting
their presumptions about what’s going to happen, or at least that’s
what I think they were saying. I’m not exactly fluent in Khmer. I sat
behind the group, watching as the kids laughed and smiled at each
other, trying to take in the story and repeat the English words. After
taking four languages myself, it was refreshing to see enthusiasm in
their eyes where as most people my age are burnt out and just say,
“Ugh, English please?”

And then the feathers came in. One of the staff got up in front of the
group, pulled a carefully constructed, paper bird on a popsicle stick,
feathers across its body and a fastener in its wing to provide
movement. After a few minutes explaining how to make the bird in
Khmer, holding up the varying tools provided, the kids grouped
themselves around cardboard lids full of crayons, gluesticks and
scissors and went to work. Kaitlyn and I sat in one group of
particularly quiet kids who were extremely focused on making the best
birds. Kaitlyn actually had to look on to the little boy on her left,
following his moves to get hers done.

I’d resigned myself to just take pictures and observe, provide my help
if needed, but the little girl to my right had on a sad look and gave
up after her first cut into the paper. No more than 5, she’d obviously
grown bored with the process but longingly watched as everyone else
started to bring their creations to life. Despite my reservations and
the language barrier, I took the paper from her and began cutting out
the shapes. She gave me a little smile. After I glued the circles and
rectangles together and put the metal fastener in the wing, I got
another smile. When I picked out the feathers and tried to glue them
on myself, I got a frown. She wanted to do that part.

With the popsicle stick and googly-eye as the final touch, she had a
bird to run around with like everyone else. She wasn’t a very
emotional girl, but I got enough happy faces from her to call it a
success. As I turned away from her to check out the crowd, that’s when
I realized and missed the simple joys of being a child. If I could
glue feathers to my forehead, maybe some googly-eyes and laugh with my
friends about it, I’d probably be happy as a clam too. Needless to
say, as the group rushed outside in the emerging sunshine, I grabbed a
yellow feather and stuck it behind my ear, just for good measure.

The kids danced around the yard, flapping their birds, poking each
other and smiling, and then hamming it up for my camera. When I
hunkered down to get eye-level, I got ambushed. Paper birds and little
hands whacking my camera, falling off balance but still trying to
catch every moment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much happiness
from children, and I’ve volunteered at countless summer camps. They
were all so excited to see their picture when I opened the screen for
them---I assume most of them haven’t ever seen themselves captured
like that before. As we walked away to shouts of good-bye and many
skinny, tan arms waving, I was reminded of why I came here. This is a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to study, to help, to tell a an entire
country’s story, and I can’t believe how much of it I’ve already
experienced in less than two weeks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Operation Smile

In this post Vantha our Office Manager and Scholarship Programme Supervisor talks about his recent involvement with Operation Smile as part of JWOC's Relief Project.

There are many children in Cambodia has problem with cleft lips and cleft palates.

JWOC's Emergency Relief Fund has helped many families, at below is the one story of child that was helped by JWOC to have operation for giving beautiful smile back to his life.

His name is Phat Em, his father name is Hov Phat and mother’s name is Sa Ruot. Both of them work as farmer and in dry season his father works as construction worker. Now Em is 1 year old and 11 months. He has one older brother who is 5 years old.

In late of 2010 his family knew about JWOC providing help to children who have a problem with cleft lip or palate to get operation at Phnom Penh by covering on transportation, food and accommodation. They found about Operation Smile Clinic from JWOC previous scholarship student working as Microfinance Credit Officer in their village. Em’s parents decided to bring him to JWOC for asking for more information after that JWOC made appointment with his family came to Siem Reap Provincial Hospital for first operation.

On 14th December, 2010 Em’s family brought him came to Siem Reap Provincial Hospital for doing operation but unfortunately he couldn’t do operation cause his health so weak and his weight still not enough. He has to wait for next two month and went to Phnom Penh on 21st February, 2011.

Em’s photo with his mum came to Siem Reap Provincial Hospital first time in 14th December, 2010

Em’s photo with his parent at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh for second time on 21st February, 2011

Em’s photo with his mother to register the name and information.

Em’s photo with his parent on tuk tuk to visited around town in Phnom Penh
while waiting number for operation.

Em’s photo with his parent to visited Royal Palace in Phnom Penh while waiting number for operation.

Em’s photo while waiting to get operation and he is so tired.

Em’s photo with his mother after finished operation for 3 hours.

Em’s photo after finished operation.

Em’s photo one week later after operation and came to Siem Reap Children Hospital to take out stitches.

Em’s photo 3 months later after operation.

My name is Vantha I work in JWOC as Office Manager, I would like to say thank you so much for all of your spending your time to read our blog and also I really would like to say thank you so much for all of our donors that always helping JWOC with all projects especially in Emergency Relief.

As we can see that the result of charity always can help people especially children which to change their life from dark life to get future bright. I hope that our supporters will stay and join with us to provide more help to the people or children need help and keep helping our new generation for develop our society.

If you would like to help by donate for them please follow this link
We will transfer all your kindness to those that need it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Our first photography exhibition

JWOC recently held its first photo exhibition, featuring fantastic pictures from our Children's Photography Workshops and our photography volunteer, Jesse Mojica. Here we share all the children's photos included in the display.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The New Year

Borey, a scholarship student in his second year, writes here about his New Year and a big fish...

Hello! I’m Borey. Recently I participated a national festival, called Khmer New Year. This last for three days and always start on 13th or 14th April.

On this special occasion everyone was very happy with family and friends at their homelands. Houses were decorated with colorful and flowers, fruits, drinks,incense and candles were ready prepared to serve new angel with new things.

Borey at the market to buy goods for the New Year celebration.

On the 3rd day was the happiest time for me. I and my friends rode motorbikes to a very far pagoda. We danced and played traditional games there until early night.

Offerings at the pagoda.

A day after New Year’s days ended I went fishing and caught a very big fish with my nephew. We were surprised and happy. It was probably the gift that new angel give to me for New Year and made very delicious dinner for my family.

Borey's nephew with the big fish.

Blogger news