First Time in Cambodia

We (Tom, my husband and I) arrived in Cambodia just over a week and a half ago. It was a total shock to the senses in many ways. The sights, sounds, smells and colours were so different from Ireland and I must admit the traffic terrified me at first. Where were lanes and indicators, and just how many people fitted on a motorbike? On our arrival on Sunday Colm met us for a lovely welcome lunch in New Leaf Restaurant – one of several vibrant social enterprises in the city.

I quickly realized however just how kind and welcoming the people were. They have such a beautiful, warm Sours’dey (hello) for you, and the word I hear most frequently is Akun (Thank you).

We received a warm “cead mile failte” on the Monday in the See Beyond Borders office, with a welcome pack and our own water bottles (essential).  We met staff, learned more about the programme, and prepared for our first school visit on Tuesday.

A warm welcome and a mug of tea

It was wonderful to see that children are the same everywhere, but it was quite a shock, as a westerner, to see the facilities available in the school. School buildings and the placement of desks, and blackboards  reminded me of Ireland as it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In the first school we visited the lesson we saw was on teaching addition in Math based on adding units, tens, hundreds, and thousands. The teacher was in the mentoring programme of SBB and used her materials well but needed further practice in how to get the children involved, and how to “work the room”. She was very kind and when the mentor spoke to her afterwards, she took his words of feedback well.

Our second school visit that week was further out in the country. We do not know what a pothole is in Ireland! Here we saw an amazing math lesson by a young teacher who has been mentored through SBB for 5 years. The lesson was well prepared and materials ready, children gathered around him on the ground, children asking questions and being questioned, working in groups.  All done by the teacher in a totally inclusive way! At the end of the lesson an excited shout went up from the class – I never saw children so delighted to  receive homework!

Visiting a School in Angkor Thom

It was clear to me then that the SBB Mentoring Programme was working in a really positive way for these children. The Mentor (who was the School Principal) was observed by SBB’s Mentor Development Co-Ordinator. He participated and took notes and fed back to the teacher and the senior mentor also gave good informed feedback to the Mentor. Everybody was involved, there was great learning,  and it was a really positive experience for all.


Meanwhile, back in the lovely SBB office, I have been working with two wonderful staff – Phearith and Ratana – and we have worked on the design of reports and logos under Colm’s expert guidance. This is an incredible experience for me.  Phearith and Ratana are so open to new ideas and concepts and very quick learners. I feel we are making progress all the time. Gerry and Laurel are in the office and are of assistance whenever we run into problems, and there is a lovely fun atmosphere. Ratana and Phearith have the measure of Gerry and tease him unmercifully!

Tom has been busy working with Colm and the management team on strategy and communications . I bump into him now and then! It seems, like everybody who has come here, I have fallen in love with Seam Reap, and enjoy exploring its streets, kerbside cafes, markets and museums. I have still to explore Angkor Wat and take a trip to Battambang, but that is for another day!

Much to Ponder

3 Responses to “First Time in Cambodia”

  1. Mícheál Garvey

    Lovely article Brid
    I know what you mean about falling in love with Siem Reap
    Last year was my first in five years not visiting Siem Reap and meeting up, and working, with such wonderful people
    I hope to make up for missing year sometime late this summer
    Enjoy every moment of your stay, both yourself and Tom
    Micheál x

  2. Catherine Byrne

    Great insight into local life and the education scene. Brid.
    Looking forward to more stories 😊

  3. Niamh Cullen

    Well done Bríd – it’s so lovely to hear your story. I am particularly interested in the mentoring programme. I would just love to go out and get involved too.

    Have a wonderful time, they are so lucky to have your experience to share.

    Niamh x


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