I think it would be fair to say that our first week here in Cambodia has been pretty full on since we touched down in Siem Reap airport early last Friday morning…!! After non stop travel since early Thursday morning by the time we all got to the leap house we were shattered but still very excited about what was in store for the next 2 months. On our first weekend we were taken on a tour of Siem Reap by Tho who showed us the very cool looking markets with all the gap year clothes and jewellery you could ever want, supermarkets for when we wanted some traditional English sugar (Oreos) and of course the most crucial part of the town for our squad- pub street!!!!
On Sunday we decided to take a squad trip to the Phnom Kulen National park which, at the very top has a sacred Buddhist site. It was here that Jayavarman II declared himself King of Kings and some consider this the act of the foundation of the Khmer empire, which is pretty cool I think. It has one of the largest Buddhas ever carved and the monks who live there perform blessings for those who want them. It was very cool to see as it was obvious that this is a very special place for Buddhists to visit. After lunch we then went to the massive waterfall a bit further down the mountain for a swim which was AMAZING and a good way to cool off from the 34 degree heat.
On Monday we began our community projects starting with the well building in the village of Anhchah, just outside Siem Reap. We were split into two teams with the aim of building a well from scratch for a very poor family with little or no access to clean water in the village. The contrast between the city of Siem Reap and the village was unbelievable. People here basically live in very small shacks many of which don’t have any sort of bathroom or access to clean water. Personally I found it really saddening to see that there were some people in Siem Reap (the government) who live extremely well and then less than a mile a away there are hundreds of people who live on maybe $5 a day but in some cases definitely less. However, although it sounds like a massive cliché the family that we were building for seemed so genuinely happy and grateful for the little they had and what we were doing for them, by the end of the two days although it was very hard work it was extremely rewarding to see a fully functioning well and water pump which the family will be able to use for around 20 more years.
In the afternoons we go to Spitler and Kurata schools which are situated in the same village that our construction projects are based in so the children that go there are extremely poor and many of them don’t go to school very much because their parents feel like they should be working to provide for the family instead. We are teaching grades 3-6 English which has honestly been so much fun and the children are super keen to learn. Our main job is to help with their pronounciation as this could really benefit them in later life and it’s quite sad to think that we’ve really only got 5 weeks to help them so I think we’re all going to make the most of it.
We’re all really pumped to continue with our work at the school and also the toilet project which is going to take up the next month- so by the end we’ll probably be fully qualified construction workers!! Fingers crossed xx