Sovann Komar and SKOPE hosted some students from Millbrook School, New York, who came over as part of an educational trip to get involved in our outreach programme. There were eleven students and three teachers and the theme for the overall weekend was: playgrounds!
On Saturday the American students and some of our own kids worked really hard to recondition the existing playground in Sovann Komar Children’s Village. After eight years of enthusiastic playtimes, it was looking a little dilapidated. So we replaced the sandpit, painted the climbing frame, swing set, and seesaws, hung a new rope swing, and replaced the jumping tyres.
Sunday was SKOPE’s latest project in Prey Veng province. It was much more ambitious than all of our previous ones combined. And by that, I mean we were doing multiple things, most of which required manual labour. Here was the schedule:
Hand out stationary to every child (equipment donated by a very generous supporter from China and supplemented by the headteacher at Sovann Komar School)
Hand out water filters to each family
Create a cement base for the new water well
Build a playground
I was most involved in the first and last point as SKOPE fundraised to support those two endeavours. The trees and water well were supported by Sovann Komar itself, Panasasatra University of Cambodia, and donors from the United States. The water filters were donated by Millbrook School.
The playground was an idea I had had a few months previously. It was a somewhat daunting task but with so much help from various men at Sovann Komar and the children themselves, it soon became viable. I held a design competition for the playground layout for the children at Sovann Komar, involving them in the structure from the start. The frame itself was built by me and my manly helpers and erected a couple of weeks before the official donation day. On the day itself, we had painted tyres to nail up for monkey bars, ropes to thread for a climbing ceiling, more tyres to tie together to make a climbing wall, and an amazing spiderweb design.
This aspect of the day took the most co-ordinator, the greatest number of people, and the most brain power. Seriously, knots are confusing. Luckily, one of the girls from Millbrook School was a former rock-climber and with her advice, several other students were able to create sturdy, safe connections. We also hung two tyre swings from trees which were inundated with children as soon as our workers were out of the trees above them.
I’ve never seen so many children climbing on a structure before. As soon as we stepped away, they ran for it, scaling up to the top with ease, swinging on the ropes and clambering through tyres. It was one of the happiest sights of my life and one I will never forget. Also, the playground stayed standing so that was a win!
Monday morning was the end of Millbrook School’s trip but they had time to eat breakfast with my unusually shy Grade 5 class before teaching English. From origami to reading time, singing songs to conversation classes, Grades 1, 3, and 5 loved learning from our young volunteers.