We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs.
Many abilities and skills will be welcomed by this holistic community support project to help them deliver their wide range of programme activities - for example:
marketing, fundraising, proposal writing
building trades, DIY, gardening enthusiasts
artists / drama / Musicians (for workshops and to help include these into the English lessons where appropriate)
health care professionals – for our basic health and hygiene programme – heavy restrictions preclude practising medicine
sport coaches - there is a football team that plays in the local NGO league at weekends
life skills of all kinds will be welcomed
Basic requirements for all of the above: enthusiasm, flexibility, patience !
This project offers a responsible alternative to the volunteer who would like to work in childcare but is rightly concerned about the ethics of short term volunteer work abroad in an orphanage.
Treak Community Centre is all about creating opportunities for local people, rather than dependency. The project is ongoing and works to help people learn new skills, also increasing their own abilities, self-confidence and feelings of self-worth in the hope that these attributes will enable them to take control of their own futures. The education programmes at Treak enable local village people to obtain decent jobs, especially in the tourism industry in nearby Siem Reap. These jobs are helping to break the cycle of poverty that runs across much of rural Cambodia.
Treak Community Centre operates the following programmes, all of which are free for the students:
• School – focusing on teaching English and IT (around 300 children)
• Nursery – kindergarten education for 50 children, especially for the poorest families, encouraging engagement in education
• Library – many families in the village don’t own a single book and the children are hungry for the opportunity to read
• IT classes – basic IT training
• Community Support Programme – provides employment, training, and food for poor villagers.
Though Treak’s main activities are in providing education, as the centre operates in a poor village, they get people in real crisis coming to them for assistance: no money, no food, no baby milk, sickness, family bereavement etc.
Treak offers help through their Community Support programme, of which the main component is the garden programme - showing how people with little or no land can grow food for their families. It’s most important function however is to enable people to receive help with dignity as anyone needing assistance has to work in the garden. The project manager, Salin.,wants people to contribute in some way for the help they get by working at the centre etc.
Daily Timetable Monday to Friday
Nursery classes 8.00 to 11.00
English classes 8.00 to 11.00, (lunch break 11.00 to 1.00), then 1.00 to 3.00 with optional 5.00 to 6.00
Library 1.00 to 4.00
Staff meetings held every Friday morning for staff and volunteers.
All teaching staff speak good English and will help with translation in the lessons.
The school was on rented land with a 5 year lease due to expire in 2017. After much fundraising they were able to buy some land directly behind the current site and they are building a completely new school on the land that has been bought. This will be a permanent school for the children in Treak village, built of bricks and concrete, which is especially important as the village doesn’t have a government primary school. The school will consist of a 2 story block of rooms containing 4 classrooms, a nursery/kindergarten, library, IT room, and dining room. There will also be a small office and kitchen. Building started early in 2016 and is almost complete with just one block still to build and some landscaping left to do. When this is completed the rooms currently used for the nursery, IT room and library will move to the new block, leaving a building on the edge of the school site which will be used for community education classes. The school is being built by local people, including making their own bricks.
The new buildings will enable the school to improve and expand their education programmes, and they are also particularly keen to develop ways to help the women of the village, especially those with young children to look after.
Read more here about how the volunteer programme works with Treak Community Centre.
Treak village is about 4 kilometres to the south of Siem Reap town, which is the main tourism service town for the World Heritage site at Angkor Wat. Though Siem Reap is pretty developed by Cambodian standards, if you make that 4 kilometre journey it is like travelling back in time 100 years. Indeed, in many parts of the village, life goes on much as it has done for the past 1,000 years! You can see wooden carts being pulled by cows, haystacks by people’s houses where the straw from their rice fields is piled up, and pigs and hens and ducks and cows all living around and under the houses.
People traditionally built their houses from whatever materials they could find and poor people’s houses are still built in exactly the same way. People who can afford to buy bricks and concrete are considered rich; poor houses are a single floor, about 6 metres by 4 metres, with a wooden frame and walls made of panels woven from grass and strips of bamboo. The roofs are woven grass or palm leaves; if people can save up a bit of money they like to make a roof with corrugated metal sheets as these last much longer than the grass, which has to be replaced every 2 years or so.
The poorest people have no land and build little shelters out of whatever they can find: bamboo poles; bits of old tin; plastic bags; old tarpaulins; cardboard; grass; old bits of wood that other people have finished with etc.
Around 80% of the people in Cambodia live in the countryside. Many people are farmers with a small rice field and a few animals; many are subsistence farmers who just grow enough for them and their families; many cannot even grow enough and their food runs out before the next rice crop is ready. Increasingly, as the population steadily recovers, people find they have no land, or they have to divide up their land for their children.
There is no piped water supply in Treak village; all the water comes from wells and many families share wells. The water has to be boiled or run through water filters before it is safe to drink but 30% of the families don’t have water filters.
There is no sewage system in the village; people have simple collecting tanks next to their toilets that have to be emptied out. 50% of people have no toilet and have to use the forest.
There is no gas supply, there is no tarmac road; no one is connected to the telephone system.
In parts of the village the only visible signs of modern life are mobile phones, televisions running off car batteries or the electricity supply, and a few motorbikes.
Treak village is a very typical rural Cambodian village. Most people are subsistence farmers or fisherman; around half of the adults are illiterate, which is a direct consequence of the Khmer Rouge period when schools were closed, education was abandoned, and many teachers were killed or fled the country. At the end of the Khmer Rouge period in 1979 there were less than 10% of the teachers left. Education continues to improve but it is still pretty basic and teachers’ salaries are very low; this impacts on the standard of teaching, which is also often poor. There is still a shortage of teachers and school buildings so half of the children go to school in the morning and the other half go in the afternoon. The teachers have to teach the same lessons twice, starting at 7.00 in the morning and finishing at 5.00 in the afternoon, 6 days a week and all for about $80 - $100 per month.
There isn’t a government primary school in Treak village. The children have to attend one of the schools in the neighbouring villages. Over 90% of children start primary school but many don’t finish. Only half of the children go on to start lower secondary school with only 18% of them going on to start senior high school. The situation is much worse in the more rural areas that make up the majority of the country. In addition, girls have much less chance of finishing school than boys and it’s highly unlikely that a rural girl will complete her schooling.
Treak village has 2,000 people living in 330 families. Around 20% are on the official government poverty list which means they earn less than 50 cents per day. 30 families are classed as living in extreme poverty; this means that they have no land or job or savings or support from family members etc. Families living in poverty find it very hard to afford to send their children to school so the children cannot get good jobs when they grow up and the cycle of poverty starts all over again. There are good jobs within the tourism industry in nearby Siem Reap, though many are only for people who can speak & write English.