The preparation week is coming to an end, and the last meetings are taking place, to smooth the way for welcoming nearly 3000 children a day. To be ready for this enormous challenge, each camp has been independently training and preparing. There is a lot to get done and the the new monitors are shared between excitement at the prospect of the summer camp, and apprehension about their responsibilities. Each team’s coordinator has been guiding the monitors through the procedures and specific skills they will need for the following month.
On Friday morning, we followed the Sen Sok paillote preparations. At 8am, the monitors pack their truck with all the material they will need throughout the month: water, rice, art supplies, balls, and much more. When they arrive, the children are just getting out of school and some of them notice the PSE truck. They run after it and greet it with excitement. At the paillote, Sandra Samaniego, the coordinator, greets the social workers and teachers in charge of the center. They show them around and hand over the keys.
The monitors spend time setting everything up: the material they still need to bring, where activities will take place, the shower logistics, and how to organize the material room. They also do a simulation of a regular day to get familiarised with the space.
The next morning the Khmer and European monitors met each other for the first time. They attended a huge meeting in PSE and talked about tips on how to communicate efficiently in their teams as well as guidelines on interacting with the children. All camps at PSE are lead by European and Khmer monitors, the latter usually being Cambodian university students (who are often PSE graduates) who have decided to spend their summer break with the children at PSE. They are an absolutely essential part of each camp, as they are not only monitors, but translators too…
In the Teenagers’ camp, each monitor made a short introduction about themselves to the group and then played a memory game to learn the names. Despite their different backgrounds there was a lot in common between the monitors. “We came to give joy to the children and make them have a great summer”, said a Khmer monitor. For many monitors, it is their first time at PSE, such as Vam, an I.T. student from Phonm Penh, and Marco, an engineering student from Madrid. There are also long-time monitors like Sambo, a former PSE student and fifth year monitor at PSE. He is a year away from graduating from tourism school, but he is happy to spend his vacations at the camp. “It’s a lot of work but I love the people here,” he says.
Saturday afternoon, there are groups of monitors having lunch in the canteen and in all the little shacks around the PSE centre. Even though Khmer and international volunteers sometimes struggle to communicate efficiently, they share an intense excitement for the camp and a common goal, that of making this month as great as possible for all the children.
Camila Del Villar