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A Letter from Sihanoukville Central

 

The Sihanoukville Summer Camp first began in the summer of 2007. PSE had opened an antenna there a few years earlier to extend its work to the children living on the many dumpsites and slums around the beach-town. This year, Carolina Ruiz is coordinating the camp, which welcomes around 300 children who come in two groups, in the morning and afternoon. She was a little apprehensive when she found out about coordinating the camp, because it is much more independent than those situated around the central camp of Phnom Penh, where the management team is based and responds to any problems that cannot be resolved by the camps’ coordinators. However, she is really happy with the outcome: “the European monitors have adapted to the camp really quickly and all know what to do. We also have an amazing team of Khmer monitors who speak really good English. A great surprise is that we also have many volunteers who are students during the year in the PSE centre and want to stay in August to play with the children. There are about 15 and they are incredibly helpful with the showers, in the kitchen, and during the activities. We’re really lucky to have them.” In Sihanoukville, the main challenge lies in the incredible unpredictability of the weather… From one second to the next, glorious sunshine transforms into unbelievably heavy rain, such that you’ve never soon before, that floods the whole camp in less than 20min. “In those cases, we quickly have to group teams together and improvise our activities to adapt them to the inside spaces. Today for example we projected a movie, which the children loved!”

 

Carolina, the camp coordinator

For Xanthe, a first-year monitor, working with the Khmer monitors has been very fun, and when she has trouble explaining an activity, she happily asks them to explain their Khmer games. Moreover, she reflects that “the European monitors are all trying to give the children the best time in the camp but every now and then we get little reminders of what their lives are like outside – and I think the Khmer monitors really help us to process that, because they have a better understanding of the children’s backgrounds.”

 

Xanthe, English monitor
Xanthe, English monitor

Alison Logier, volunteering with the Summer Camps for the third year, is responsible for the logistics of the Central Camp and also the Paillote of Sihanoukville.  She runs all the behind-the-scenes aspects of the camps. This entails doing the accounting for both camps, getting all the food at the market each morning, briefing the cooks, organising the transport to bring the food to the paillote and to get the children in the morning and afternoon, handling the trips to and from the beach, managing the rice compensations… Her jobs around the camp require extreme organisation and efficiency, which she achieves remarkably well. “My role is basically to make sure that everybody has what they need to make the camp successful, whether it’s during the camp – having material, food, water – or whether it’s the wellbeing of the monitors and children. I make sure that everything is running smoothly and if there are problems I can advise the coordinators on how they can solve them. I am in constant communication with the management team in Phnom Penh, and with Carolina and Alvaro, the two Sihanoukville coordinators.” To her, clearly, the best asset of the camps in Sihanoukville is the proximity of the beaches. “It’s amazing to see the children there, they are so spontaneous and love everything about it – and so do the monitors.” What’s more, in this camp, the Khmer monitors sleep on the same site as the European monitors, which really strengthens their team. “This gives us many bonding opportunities and helps us to reach another level of friendship, allowing us to understand Khmer culture a lot better because we live all together. It’s a really great atmosphere!”

 

Alison negociating the price of chicken at the market
Alison negociating the price of chicken at the market

 

 

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