During a recent family holiday to Cambodia we had the opportunity to visit the PEPY school in Siem Reap.
A short Tuk Tuk ride to the outskirts of the town took us to the school building, where Mary, Jenny (DPETNS) and Una (DPCC) introduced us to the local staff. After a short tour (..it’s not big, and we could immediately feel the Educate Together influence with a familiar feel to the wall art!) we were brought to an upstairs classroom to meet the students where we found that we had underestimated the excitement that our visit had caused. We were treated to several performances, and spent some time asking and answering questions with the students to understand better what they do and what their goals are. We were very impressed with the atmosphere and the sense of community in the learning centre – everyone there seemed really happy, although that’s probably a fair reflection on Cambodians in general. The students (who all come from remote areas) live together near the school and cook for each other, I couldn’t imagine that working for me at that age!
After that it was down to the street for a display of Irish (khmirish?) set dancing – felt a bit surreal to us, but no passerby passed any remarks, so maybe it happens a lot – and some games, followed by some photos. Then a final farewell song, and it was time to let the students get back to work.
It’s only after witnessing PEPY in action, in the context of learning about recent history in Cambodia that the value of the work being done there becomes apparent – there are basic skills being taught here that we take very much for granted and the support given to students (including full scholarships to university) goes beyond what we had expected. We were very proud to hear of the support being given by the various Irish Agencies, and it’s really interesting to see where foreign aid money is being spent.
The visit was a great experience, and I hope the relationship with PEPY and Cambodia continues to develop well into the future.