I hope folks back in Vermont are enjoying the Summer months, a great time to be in the Green Mountain state. People are going to be crowding Waterfront Park and the shores of Lake Champlain for the fireworks in Burlington on the 3rd. I'll miss them, they are great. I remember some years wondering 'how much longer can they go on?' (Yes I started the entry a few days back, but I liked my opening) Going to try to at least write a blog a month, so far so good.
We've been back here just over a month after our trip back to the States in May. And it seems like a lot has happened. I am much clearer about how I can help here. I mentioned 2 places in my last entry that work with children. I've been going to the preschool that has @ 15 3-5 year olds. The 2 Khmer teachers there seem very caring and I've been impressed by their skills in working with the kids, especially the male teacher, it's a husband and wife team. I've brought materials ( I still make the best playdough) offered suggestions, and advice. I spend a bit of time with the kids but make sure the primary caregivers are the teachers. Hardly any English teaching. Which is how it is set up at this school. Half the kids are actually Vietnamese, all poor and so the Khmer language and culture is emphasized.
There of course are challenges. The husband has almost no English and the wife's is ok. The director speaks pretty good English, it's me that has such a hard time with accents. Not surprisingly children spending their time playing is not seen as learning. Fortunately 2 Australians involved are both educators. A young woman, 25, oversees the program but is busy with other programs within the organization. That's why the other Australian and I have been recruited. The young woman is very bright with such a great way about her. The org is well run and respected. So this is such a welcome change from the mismanaged (to put it mildly) NGO I was at previously with 50-100 kids.
I've only been here there a few weeks and have been involved in the room design and will be doing a weekly training. I've already talked a bit with the teachers (with a translator) about the importance of kids playing and moving when they are 3-5 years old. They looked a bit like they thought I was crazy. This should be very interesting. I'll also be doing some teacher training at the orphanage I mentioned in the previous post, the woman in charge of that program is returning this week. Looking forward to working there, the woman is actually an Early Childhood Educator. Both places also seemed interested that I'm a Social Worker indicating a possibility for me to contribute some of that knowledge down the line. I most likely will get a stipend from the school! Enough I hope to pay for my tennis obsession, more on that later.
And I've been trying to help the children's hospital here get in place a Social Work program. They have a Home Care program at the hospital mostly with medical folks, though similar to the VNA's home visitors they do some 'social work'. Yet no trained Social Workers are on staff. They only recently graduated the 1st class of Social Workers from a university in Phnom Phen. Some question their skill levels. In any case I was able to go on a home visit, an hour's drive out in the country to a poor village. And actually considering, NGO network, the situation of families here and the challenges I thought they did well. There are so many NGO's here that it's hard to get a handle on who offers what. So I've been meeting with some and trying to get a feel for where the hospital can refer: and give info on Time consuming.
So I've been a bit busy but still have time for tennis and social gatherings. There seems to be an explosion of social and other activity here among expats. New facebook pages: including classified ads, book swap, NGO network, happenings. Just a general vibrancy and we're making some good friends and connections. Tennis has been great. Iwas rained out a couple of times but the rain has been holding off for the most and I've been getting to play 3-4 times a week and have a standing 6am time weekly.
Still loving it here and if I was asked the best time of year to visit I'd be hard pressed to give an answer. It seems to be just good weather and hard to predict when it would be most pleasant. However there are less t tourists certain times of the year. And we are moving towards being here a year.
Some folks may have heard but my son Skyler is moving back to Burlington, and most likely will start work at the Trat. He has plans to open a place of his own with a chef buddy. He'll need all the luck he can get on that endeavor. He's traveling this week, driving with his girlfriend, Jenny. Safe travels guys.