Between 8am on Saturday 25th and 11.30pm on Sunday 26th, the bewildered staff and students of PSE saw 183 young volunteers trundle into the camp, hauling huge bags of presents for the children and looking slightly lost.
Lucretia Letourneur, a first-year monitor, recounts her experience of arriving at the PSE center:
The first thing that really hit me when I arrived was how welcoming and open people were, as much the Cambodian staff and students as the people already present for the summer camp. It was a delightful atmosphere. The camp itself is lovely too, because the pensionnaires run up to you to play and talk, and there’s tropical vegetation everywhere, as well as football and basketball pitches with people playing… It was wonderful. It’s exactly how I had imagined it.
Concerning the visit to the dumpsite, there were two things that shocked me. The first one was that I thought we were climbing up a little hill, and I suddenly realised we were walking on tons and tons of heaped-up rubbish. Because the site is now closed, and there’s a little grass growing on the remains, it’s hard to tell at first what the huge hills are… The second thing that shocked me was that the Social Service worker who accompanied us told us of his own experience of the dumpsite. He told us that as a child he had loved coming there, because that’s where all his friends were, and even though the food was horrible and the stink was pervasive, he still enjoyed it as a place to play with his friends. It gave me a completely different perspective of everything: we always imagine these people as victims, who need to be helped, and I suddenly realised that this had been their life, their every-day, that maybe they never could have imagined things any other way.
The workshops were very interesting, especially the part about how to behave around the children at PSE, particularly with the pensionnaires who live there all year. Another thing that was impressive was that all the games we did were put in context, in terms of learning how to cooperate with your team and to trust your team-mates. It allowed us to see all the work that had been done before we arrived and all the organisation required to form us for the camps.
All the activities, games, dance parties with the pensionnaires, really helped in immediately uniting us as a group and creating a wonderful team spirit. It’s been amazing so far and I think everyone is as impatient as I am for the camps to start.