Nick Toovey shares a reflection on the time he spent working in Cambodia recently
Have you ever worked with people who inspire you and humble you by their devotion, dedication and commitment to the call they believe God has made on their lives?
Have you ever been in the company of people who have sacrificed their own safety and livelihood in order to rescue children from harm and abuse at the hands of horrible people?
Have you ever known people who are prepared to put up with physical hardship, separation from family, living in a very different culture, a foreign language, dodgy infrastructure and political intimidation?
I had the pleasure of working with, befriending and worshipping with these kinds of people at Hope International School for four weeks last term. The K-12 School of about 220 students and 30 staff provides a first class education to the children of parents who work as teachers at local schools including Hope, evangelists at the local churches, many Christian NGO’s including Samaritan’s Purse and ‘Hard Places’.
“Hard Places” is a community of Khmer volunteers who rescue primary school age girls and some boys from the clutches of paedophiles in Phnom Penh. It was founded twelve years ago by Alli Mellon, an American lady whose four young adopted Khmer children attend Hope. What a lady!
Hope is a School in the north of Phnom Penh with no school uniforms, no bells and whose staff and students come from Korea, US, UK, Canada, Australia, NZ, Africa as well as Cambodia. The 300 students enrolled at Hope reflect the same cross- cultural mix. The staff talk of teaching TCK- third culture kids. Senior students study the International Baccalaureate while students in years 7-10 follow a Cambridge GSCE curriculum.
Many of the school administrators, maintenance staff, cleaning staff and canteen staff come from support centres which provide employment opportunities for those local Khmer nationals who have experienced social disadvantage. “Hagar” which runs the popular canteen is one such organisation.
I can recommend teaching at Hope. I was accepted and befriended by the staff, especially those who remembered me from 2017. The respect they showed me was genuine and reassuring.
The year 9 English class I taught were more like year 11 students in appearance, quality of writing and maturity of class discussions. They were typical of Hope classes in terms of their cultural mix.
Soon after I arrived mid- May (with four weeks to complete the academic year) the Danish primary PE teacher needed to return home following the death of his mother in law. The deputy principal, Cheryl asked me whether I could take Kinder, grade 1, 3 and 5 PE classes. How could I say No! It was a great way to expand my CV at the wrong end of my career! I was told that teaching PE at this level is like herding cats.
Amongst the supportive expat staff, most of whom who live in several gated communities or “boreys”, NRL is huge and AFL is pretty popular too.
If you are thinking of taking up this opportunity to teach at Hope for a short term stint or longer, please speak to me. I wish I had done something like this years ago.
All they ask for is our prayers.
Let us pray: