The day had finally arrived. The day I had been waiting for. The day to go into the school. After a restless sleep, probably due to excitement, we were up with the sunrise and out in a tuk tuk by 7.30.
When we approached the dirt track road to school, all the memories came rushing back. All those journeys made to school on bike for six months on my own and all those journeys made to school with my family who visited in the latter years. Now new memories will be made with Tom.
We asked the tuk tuk to drop us off so we could walk down the track. The street dogs ran in-front of our passage, children approached and waved and smiled outside their wooden framed houses which were hut like, as well as those in brick houses with wooden front selling sites attached at the front. We walked past the original site, now a site to aid those with disabilities, however we could still see the farm attached which is still in use by ABC’S and Rice. It looked luscious and healthy.
Further down the orange coloured dirt track stood the school. With the same primary coloured painted gates and ladies outside selling snacks in a hammock, we entered. Welcomed by Tammy, I was amazed by how much ABC’s had grown. A well stocked library, second hand clothes, a dress up area and large workspace for the teachers and staff. It was amazing to see.
Having visited 5 years ago, faces had changed and children had grown up. Most of the children that I knew well I were told were now in their night class, which I will go to. The lovely thing about the school is that you always feel welcome no matter how many or how little you know. The children’s smiles, their hugs and how they say ‘hello chaaaaaa’ (cha meaning teacher) made me instantly smile. I was back. I was back in this world where every smile and every hug makes you want to stay forever. When thinking deeply about the children circumstances it’s upsetting. They have the minimum but yet they act like they have everything in the whole wide world at school. The families that qualify for ABC’s and Rice earn €100 and under per month. That is a maximum of €3.33 a day! That’s a maximum of £2.68 a day for a whole family... and many of these families have a lot less than this. Seeing the support that ABC’s and rice provides for the children is amazing. Facilities to brush their teeth, meals, rice that goes home to support their families and an education. This is why I have the pull to come back.
We both soon made ourselves at home and got to work. When meeting with Tammy over the weekend, she revealed to us that she wanted us to make a new music wall. My last wall that I created was unfortunately destroyed when they had to relocate. We jumped at the offer and began designing it straight away. So with all the equipment purchased yesterday, as the school was closed, we set to it. We found some sellotape to stick on the allocates wall to insure it had a neat finish and began painting the plain wall a bright shade of sky blue. The sun was beating down and sweat and suncream began pouring off of us within five minutes. My cambodian pants clung to my legs and I had to use my t-shirt multiple times to wipe the sweat from my eyes. Within an hour and a half, the wall was complete with its first coat. A sense of accomplishment.
Deciding that we had lost too much fluid in the morning session, 8-11, in the afternoon, 2-5, we spent it in class. Mainly with the little ones teaching them how to tell the time... the most difficult topic of all ! It was a challenge but we worked together and supported the Khmer teacher. During the afternoon break, by my surprise I spotted familiar faces and once they recognised me, they gave me the biggest smiles known to life. Those who attend the school in the morning will go on to study at the local government school, funded by ABC’S, in the afternoon and vice versa hence the change of children.
It was a fabulous first day back at the school and I can’t wait for tomorrow. A second lick of paint is on the cards!