This was one of my favourite things we did in Cambodia and it was on the first night! It certainly set the bar high for the rest of the trip.
We were taken from our hotel via Cambodian Tuk Tuk (slightly different and bigger than the Thai Tuk Tuk) to the New Hope centre.
New Hope is an organisation in Cambodia that offers English lessons, a health centre and a cooking and hospitality school for the youth of Siem Reap. All of the G Adventure tours visit here and are a big contributor to the charity.
The centre has recently moved locations to a newer and bigger complex complete with 2 or 3 large buildings and a nice courtyard out the front. We were taken first to the English School. We split in two groups and went into a classroom where English lesson was already in progress. We stood up the front and introduced ourselves to the class and told everyone where we were from. We then took a seat at the back of the class to observe the children learning. Already I was so grateful for this opportunity to observe these children learning. They were doing so well! We found out that they had been learning English almost every day for 2 years.
Learning English is instrumental to having a future in Cambodia. Essentially if you don’t speak English, you won’t get a job. Students come here every day after their normal schooling and spend a further two hours learning English. Most of the students in the class I was observing were teenagers but they are offered to everyone.
The next part was my favourite part of the night. They paired us up with one or two students and we spent 20 minutes engaging in English conversation with them! I had to girls, 14 and 15 years old, who lived in the slums of Siem Reap. I learnt all about them, what their favourite subject at school is, what they want to be when they grow up, and what it’s like to live in Cambodia. They learnt a lot from me too. Luckily we were seated next to a world map so I used this to my advantage. I showed them where we were and where I was from and therefore how far I had come to get there. They were very interested in New Zealand and asked if it snowed! (They’d never seen snow before and wanted to know if I had!) It was very interesting to find out that when I asked them to point to where they would love to go on holiday one day, they both chose countries and regions inside Asia. The desire to see other parts of the world hadn’t hit them and I wonder if it ever will. Life is so different here and it really opened my eyes.
I wish I had written down their names but everything happened very fast! Here’s a selfie I took with them (They loved seeing themselves in my phone)…
I wished them all the best and luck for their future careers (teacher and fashion designer). It would be awesome to one day go back and see how they’re doing. Sadly I will probably never see them again but I loved the time we spent together.
Next we got a tour of the Health Centre which is a very valuable part of this charity. The Health Centre gives out free contraception, which may seem trivial however this is an essential tool for the future of Cambodia. Many Cambodians come from large families of 5-10 children and do not understand that they are just making life harder for themselves by producing too many mouths to feed. New Hope and similar western organisations are trying to educate the families about contraception and about how smaller families end up healthier and have brighter futures. It was great to hear that they’d started to make a difference… although there’s still a long way to go.
Finally we sat down to dinner in New Hope’s very own restaurant. This is a place where the wait staff, chef’s and hostess are all students of New Hope, learning hospitality and therefore getting industry training so they can get good jobs in a good industry. G Adventure brings their tours here every night to eat and this funds the course for the students. The meal we had was absolutely delicious and I even ate a fried cricket!
During dinner we watched a video about the charity and all the amazing things they’ve done so far to improve the quality of life here in Siem Reap. New Hope really is an amazing organisation and I’m so thankful that I got to be apart of it for one night. I hope that in the future I can donate further to it.