Winter Break in Cambodia
PEPY Ride IX afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the PEPY organisation and to go on a learning adventure like no other.
I first learned about the Ride when four of us (all teachers in Donabte Portrane Educate Together National School (DPETNS), Dublin, Ireland) visited PEPY in August. We were in Cambodia to look for a suitable organisation to partner with our school. Our goal was to enhance the teaching and learning of global citizenship in DPETNS. Once we read about PEPY, met Amy McLoughlin and saw some of the fantastic work they do we were very keen to establish a partnership. We knew they were for us. Thanks to our shared values luckily PEPY knew we were for them also.
Student centred learning, working with and not for students, critical thinking and our impact on the environment are all common features of our two organisations. The transparency and willingness to be self-critical is also something that impressed our school greatly and we knew a reciprocal learning exchange could be of great benefit.
Thankfully our Board Of Management agreed and following on from the establishment of the formal partnership between our primary school (DPETNS.IE) and PEPY I signed on to do the PEPY Ride. As a cycling enthusiast and someone with a keen interest in all things Cambodia this sounded like my dream trip.
Getting the chance to visit the new PEPY Learning Centre in Siem Reap was an opportunity not to be missed and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I even learned a couple of games that I have ‘stolen’ for DPETNS. I was delighted and honoured in equal measure, to get to hand out the pen pal letters that the students in Ireland had completed and hand them personally to their Cambodian pen pals.
Over the course of the trip I got my head and tummy around copious amounts of rice, coconut juice and fruit. It took some time to get used to the very early morning starts but amazing how quickly your brain can get used to getting up in the dark. My legs didn’t adapt as quickly to cycling long distances but they benefited from the challenge nonetheless.
After spending the day in the saddle we usually visited an NGO or a social enterprise. This was really informative and the work organisations such as Friends International, Sustainable Cambodia and Small World do is hugely inspiring. Conversing in Khmer with students from Banteay Mencheay University was enjoyable and took me nicely out of my comfort zone. Each day we would get Khmer lessons from Thavry Tul and while I progressed nicely I am still at the beginner stage. Thavry has agreed to give me Skype lessons over the next few months so my next challenge is to enhance my own vocabulary and then teach the children in my school.
Over the course of the 19 days I spent on the PEPY Ride I learned a lot about sustainable development, responsible giving and challenging my previously held beliefs. I was able to bring back all the students letters from Chanleas Dai and all of the artwork is now proudly on display in DPETNS.
I look forward greatly to our partnership with PEPY continuing to go from strength to strength and hopefully returning to Cambodia in the near future.
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