1. Vero, can you tell me a little about the Pensionnaires camp?
The pensionnaires are the children who live in PSE all year around because of difficult family situations. PSE is their home. When I first found out I would be coordinating their camp, I thought about how much work it would be. It is a huge responsibility because it is very different from other camps. It is very complete and diverse: there are activities both inside and outside of PSE. I was a little scared that my ideas wouldn’t work out. Overall though I was really excited because it’s one of my favourite camps.
2. What is the biggest challenge of coordinating the camp?
The biggest challenge with the monitors is to help them understand what is unique about the camp and that we manage to accomplish the objectives we set for the month. With the children the challenge is the make the camp both fun and educational. The aim is not only to pass the time but to organise activities that relay a message and implicate them in the development of their country, such as with social activities.
3. What are these educational objectives?
The aim is to help them realise that one day they were in difficult situations and that now they can give back a little of the help they received, to those people who are most in need. It’s important that they understand that there are still many people in unfortunate situations whom they can help. The fact that we have the same children for the 4 weeks of camp means that we can have workshops that develop over the course of the month. For example the children have been making bracelets in the social workshops. The aim is to sell these bracelets and collect funds to buy and prepare food to distribute to homeless people in hospitals. They make all the decisions and are very implicated in this project.
1. And Malis, did you decide to work in the Pensionnaires summer camp?
Yes I decided to because I knew the children before and really liked them. I work with them on weekends, which is how I got to know them. I know their behaviour and their problems. Most children have problems at home which force them to stay in Pensionnaires, like violence, or extreme poverty. Others live so deep in the countryside that they have to stay at PSE in order to go to school.
2. What do you think of the summer camp for them?
During the year they always go to school and then go straight back to their rooms — they have no time to go outside. With the summer camps they have many activities outside PSE, which they really enjoy.
3. What is the challenge of being a coordinator for this camp?
It is my first time coordinating and it is definitely more difficult than being a monitor. As monitors we only control the children and obey the coordinator. As coordinators we need to control both the monitors and the children. We need to find solutions when the monitors or children have a problem. For example, yesterday we went to a park in Phnom Penh and the children were playing football. By accident, they kicked the ball onto a resident who was in the park. She blamed us for hurting her eye and wanted money in return. Vero and I had to speak to the manager of the park to find a solution together. In the end we gave her a packet of rice and some water to wash her eye.
“In the holidays we usually have a lot of work with the pensionnaires, but with the summer camp we have a lot more spare time. However we still have responsibilities, like checking where they are when the day is over, making sure they eat and have showers, and look after their safety and health. My girls make many new friends in the summer camps, who come from very far away and spend their savings on their plane tickets. It makes them so happy; they play fantastic games and can practice their English. The last days are so sad, they have many memories together and look at pictures of the monitors at night and write letters. Even the younger girls who can’t speak English ask the older girls to help them. These children all come from the poorest situations and families and many have hard memories. PSE provides them with education, a home, health, and most importantly, safety. During the summer camp the European monitors bring them love and knowledge and everyone is part of a big family.” Maly, head of the Pensionnaire girls
“My experience has been wonderful up until now. The children are very sweet, but can also be very stubborn. It is difficult to deal with this because of the language barrier. However it’s amazing how we can create bonds without words. The children are very special. They don’t have families and lack adult figures in their lives, so I think that while we’re here it’s important to give them as much attention and affection as we can.” Irene Alonso, Spanish first-year monitor in the camp
“My favourite activity is to make the bracelets, especially because it’s a great experience in helping others by selling them to fund-raise to feed homeless people. What I love about the summer camp is that we have free time and we play activities as a big group, whereas during the year I only ever have 5 or 10 min between classes before I need to study again. I will miss the Summer Camps when I leave the Pensionnaires…” Reth Saran, 15-year-old teenager in the Pensionnaire camp