From the moment I began correspondence with Mel about volunteering as to teach abroad in Cambodia with Learn4Life, I could tell that I was onto something good. When I arrived in Siem Reap, Mel picked me up by tuk-tuk to take me to the school. While chatting with her on the 10-minute ride, I immediatly got a good vibe from her and my thoughts were confirmed. She is the founder and director of Learn4Life, and I knew that I had definitely found the right place for me.
I discovered Learn4Life through a friend and started looking into their volunteer program and term dates. What was so attractive about them at first glance was their length of commitment and cost. Learn4Life doesn’t charge you to volunteer at their school. Instead they ask that you commit to 3 months, which is how long the school terms are. This is beneficial for both the volunteers and students to provide consistency for the students in the classrooms and for a teacher to develop their own style and routine with the textbooks. It’s also an ideal amount of time to adapt to the way of life in Cambodia and start to feel like you’re part of the Siem Reap community and not just a passing backpacker or tourist. I’ve gotten quite settled in my daily routines of jogging along the river in the mornings, buying fresh fruit at the market, going on bike rides through villages, wandering the many markets available here and bumping into the familiar faces of my students around town.
Learn4Life provides meals and accommodation to their teachers in exchange for their time commitment. I love the accommodation and by Cambodian standards, I am living high class! We are provided with our own en-suite bathroom fitted with western flushing toilets, hot-water showers and a bedroom with air-conditioning, a mini fridge, a desk, a wardrobe and a massive bed. The meals are simple Khmer style but more than adequate and I find myself eating here most meals. Of course I crave western food once in a while, and there are a variety of options just outside the school for $1-$3 a meal. And if you are missing interactions with foreigners, Siem Reap is a major tourist destination because of Angkor Wat so you can mingle with the backpackers on Pub Street over $.50 happy hour beers.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with my work at Learn4Life as a volunteer/teacher, and that largely goes to the people who are running it and their mission. Their intentions are pure and their goal is to assist the locals in continuing their education and helping them to create better opportunities for themselves and their families.The school provides low cost English classes to locals age 15 and up and is completely run on class fees and outside donations. The cost is $15 a term for each student and many students are sponsored by outside donations. The building is simple, clean and well-kept, the textbooks offer easy-to-follow lessons plans, and you have the support of the other teachers to discuss ideas. I am most impressed with how well-organized the school is. Everything runs fairly smoothly due to the communication between the Cambodian staff and the director and they give the teachers a voice to be heard for improvements and creativity in the classroom.
While the cost and time commitment is what initially drew my interest, it has been Mel, the Cambodian staff, and the students that hold my interest for the future. They make it such a positive organization and I feel lucky to play a small part. I eagerly look forward to the smiling faces of my “kids” everyday, as they are just as excited to be here as I am. Stay tuned for updates on my experiences here over the next 2 months.