[by Mona Bader]
In August 2012 I (Mona) arrived in Battambang ready to start my volunteer year with PKO.
After getting an introduction about the different projects I decided to work for the Happy Education project at the beginning. Since I arrived together with one other German volunteer, Linda, we agreed about doing our first working experience together in the Chamkar Samrong children Center, where we basically taught English and spent the activity time drawing, dancing and playing together with the children.
Besides that we could always participate in special Center activities like the “Inter Center Days”, “Inter Center Football tournaments”, the “Center promotion Day” and also parents meetings and workshops.
Linda and some of the older center students during the promotion walk
During those events the center staff helped us to follow the activities and we could always prepare and accompany the kids.
In November Linda and I implemented a small health project in Chamkar Samrong Center by our own. Through discussion with our center stuff we decided to include a tooth brushing activity and a brief workshop about healthy/ unhealthy food and further information about how to get rid of lice, which we agreed are the most important topics to work on at the moment.
The Center staff helped me a lot to settle down in the new environment by explaining a lot about the Khmer culture, teaching Linda and me some Khmer dances and showing us some places in and around Battambang (such as the Banon mountain or Pagodas nearby), but about all they made us to enjoy the daily life (with all its small difficulties at our new work place in an unknown country) with company, jokes and very delicious snacks…
Since Linda and I wanted to get to know another project in PKO we left Chamkar Samrong Center in the end of December (after 4 months) and joined the “Post Flood Project”.
Soon we could start working for small project that focuses on the cooperation with farmers who want to do organic vegetable plantation. The main activities for that project were providing material, seed and assistance to them and later monitor the process of the organic plantation and also the family’s living situation.
The project staff helped us a lot to understand more about the project and Cambodian agriculture in general and literally to find the way in our new working environment.
When we visited the farmers (that we selected together with our colleagues when we first started work for this project) for the “compost training” we got the chance to experience some farm work, which means collecting compost material around the farmer’s houses, mixing Bokachi etc.
Preparing longtime compost with one of the target farmers
I really enjoyed working in the villages, also because it was a completely different living environment from what I knew before. Thanks to a lot of time we spent in the villages together with the Project Team and through listening to “evaluation interviews”, getting many translations and explanations I feel, I could get quite a realistic impression of the living in the rural area, which is the reality of a great majority of the people living in Cambodia.
Since we spent some entire days in the villages we got the great experience of spending lunch breaks at farmer’s houses, tasting organic vegetable from the recent “Bokachi compost” plantation and occasionally enjoying a nap in a hammock.
Besides working for the Happy Education Project and the Post Flood Project I could assist doing some office work (such as reports or Data Analysis for the evaluation of projects) and further we could help to prepare the recently implemented canteen.
In 2013 PKO started a “Demonstration Farm” project and since one part of this project is creating a small demonstration garden on the office compound, Linda and I could work on preparing the land and producing compost and organic pesticide for the vegetable plantation.
Now there is only one week of riding my bike to the PKO office left, before I will sadly have to say goodbye a lot of great people and finally make my way back to Germany.
I’m very thankful for my volunteer experience with PKO and its friendly, supporting and entertaining staff!