Leyla Sungur was a volunteer that came over with the German Red Cross for one year. She is now back home in Germany and beginning University very soon. This is her reflection on her stay at SCAO.
By the time I left Cambodia and with it S.C.A.O. I can say that I have passed through many stations of personal development and self finding process. One year ago I entered the country together with my two German fellows Julius and Lukas to work as long term volunteers at S.C.A.O. Sent by the German Red Cross we were part of a program that is financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economical Collaboration and Development. The connections established through André Struve, who was our official mentor and a friend of S.C.A.O.
Sent over as a head teacher, I lived and worked in the New School and settled in as fast as I had to- help was most needed at the very beginning of my stay. I took over 3 English classes a day. With no teaching experience I must say that it was surprisingly easy to me to find my own personal way of teaching and get along with the students and my big support- the Khmer assistant teachers! Over all I still have to admit that I felt comfortable teaching after 2 weeks, had a teaching routine and own style after 2 months but really knew my students and class levels not until 6 months after having daily experience in S.C.A.O.
The students are amazing! Cambodians are generally pretty shy but are a very curious folk- and curiosity gains over shyness in mostcases. My focuses were more the younger kids in our ABC Beginner classes. When I left just few weeks ago, I passed on 3 ABC Beginner classes, one Headway Advanced and the conversation class, that I founded shortly after my arrival. Those kids are so energetic but eager to learn. Most rewarding is the progress that the beginners’ make- it makes up all the effort and patience that you put into your classes. Moreover kids teach many things subconsciously. The ultimate trust they bring, the patience you need to work along, being fair and honest, direct but happy in the end I am sure that I have gained more out of my experience than I was able to give back.
Working with S.C.A.O. was always a pleasure. The organization can be narrowed down to a small core of staff that keeps the business running and making SCAO as vibrant as it is today. Working together and being part of the staff for that year was an absolute great opportunity to get involved into many different work fields, extend my knowledge and develop new skills, management tasks and organisational skills. The SCAO community is always friendly and tries to give a hand were possible – in the end we are one big family! What I like in particular is that every volunteer is allowed and able to leave his personal footprints but also has the responsibility to rely on themselves if there is the want to implement new ideas. I had an insight into different backgrounds from many people that I would not have met at home- from 17 years until 72! I loved to work together with the other long terms and help out with whatever was going on. Since SCAO is small it is dependent on very ambitious volunteers!
My biggest personal success was to enable one of our assisting teachers to start studying in university this summer- through support of an American sponsor! Cambodia has helped me solidifying myself and knowing who I am really. I am glad about every encounter I was allowed to make with the people in Asia but also with my friends that I found over there. An incredible demanding but also relaxing year has passed so fast that gave me the opportunity to take a break out of the daily lunacy in which we westerners live nowadays.
S.C.A.O. gave me enough space to grow and form my new myself in this environment but also holds just enough surprises, little crisis and requests to keep me busy and needed. If there is one good place to volunteer on earth than it is this NGO! Thanks to everyone who helped me have this year and made my experience into what I got! See you the next time, as there always is a next time!