Saturday 19th July 2014
Our first job today was English. We all bundled into the vans and went down the road to the local school. There were six classrooms full of kids waiting for us, aged between about five and fifteen. While none of us are teachers today’s lessons were an amazing success. We taught English words and phrases – all the important stuff like greetings, names, ages, etc. but also nature words like elephant, water, jungle and monkey. Dan really hit his stride and even managed to teach the older kids algebra! Although our primary objective on this program is conservation, it will be impossible to achieve the objectives of the elephant sanctuary without being involved in the local community. The sanctuary has a major presence here, it is very important that its social impact is positive. We can’t ignore that by preserving the elephant habitat at the sanctuary we are denying some locals an income from logging, albeit illegal and environmentally and economically unsustainable. By interacting with the kids we are helping them open up their opportunities in the future. Not only will they learn about the importance of conservation and the goals of the sanctuary, English is the passport to a better life. They can have access to a huge amount of information in books and online (the vast majority of which is in English) and be able to pursue many different career options, so they are not trapped in the situation of having to cut down the forest or poach wildlife just to make ends meet. On top of all that we get to have a huge amount of fun playing and learning with the kids. We finished up with a whole-school hokey pokey.
After lunch we went for a walk in the rain into the jungle to tie blessed orange sashes around the trees. The sashes have been blessed by monks and protect the trees they are tied around. Almost all Cambodians are Buddhist, so cutting down a tree blessed by the monks would be sacrilege.
Tomorrow we leave the sanctuary for Siem Reap. Next week we will be working on the village program. We’re excited for the next thing but sad to say goodbye to Arun Ria and Kamlin!
P.S. Pics coming soon!