Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go

Today’s update has been written by Sophie:

Today opened with another bright and early start for us in Battambang. After a spot of breakfast and some much needed caffeine the AAM team headed to Datch Port School in Bavel to begin some manual repairs to improve it.

On our arrival we were greeted by a sea of curious children surrounding us. As we stepped out of the bus it was overwhelming to see so many smiles. The children were full of energy as they waved us yelling “Hello!”.

We were then greeted by members of the community along with heads of the district and the village. Our team, SBB staff and community members all had a chance to introduce ourselves before we got started with some of the heavy labour. It was a great opportunity for us to practise our Khmer greeting “Chum reip sua”.

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We split into groups with the community to maximise the amount of work we could complete. Fiona, Liz and Rocio were completing gardening for the school; the planting they did will be used for the children’s lessons in the future. Isabel and I were getting stuck in shovelling gravel for new paths that would give the children somewhere to walk during the wet season when the grounds often flood. The paths will also make it safer as the school is a public access point for the village. The rest of the team (Ankia, Gareth, Jon, Sanj and Susan) were putting down a new concrete floor in a classroom. This will be a dramatic improvement in the learning environment.

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After hours of hard graft in a hot and humid 33 degrees we were given a feast for lunch that was put together by the community. The food was amazing and we were in great company. Despite us not knowing the language and few people being able to speak English, we still managed to communicate and have a laugh.

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We were all beginning to ache when we went back to work after lunch. Sitting at a desk and typing doesn’t build up many muscles which was what we needed for the manual work. Nevertheless, we got back to work switching teams to try our hand at a new trade – other than Gareth whose height was deemed too valuable for working the cement mixer. At this point the grounds were really transforming and beginning to take shape.

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With our team, the community and the children all working together it only took a few more hours for all our jobs to be complete. We could really see the difference that was made and who it would impact day to day which was very satisfying. Everyone was happy with the results and that we had achieved them together. A lot of people from the village had given up a day’s work/harvesting which was an amazing sacrifice that will make a huge difference for their children. We were very grateful to be part of today’s project.

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After a quick game of football between the children and a few of the AAM crew that still had energy to play we said our goodbyes and headed back into the city.

We headed off to the Balcony Bar on the riverside for some well deserved (and desperately needed) grub. We were deemed fairly attractive by all creepy crawlies and bugs which were keen to join us!

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