This past Saturday night Writing Through held the Big Event which showcased the work of 24 students from Anjali House, the educational shelter where these workshops began. It was a beautiful, though somewhat steamy, Siem Reap night, and this year, the event was held in the outdoor space of the shopping and restaurant area called……wait for it….Kings Road (I suppose you can take the girl out of London, but you can’t take London out of the girl). These are students whom I have been working with for up to six years, and I am more convinced than ever that the repetition of these workshops, year after year, creates an increased ability to grasp difficult concepts, to think creatively, to use English fluently and to present yourself with poise and confidence.
This year, the students played with the meaning of place. I showed them photos of everything from a local Khmer village to a rainbow and a head full of symbols. We discussed what was meant by a safe place. Yes, their safe places were their homes, their schools, Anjali House, but more and more, they started to think about their safe places as a place in their dreams. But of course, not all places are safe, not even the ones which you can’t get to by your feet, but only by your imagination. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz discovered that, and so did they when they listened to Somewhere Over the Rainbow. That song was difficult enough, but for the advanced group (an experimental workshop I created for one group of them this year), I played an even more difficult song, Nowhere Man by The Beatles. Most of these kids had never heard of the Beatles before — can you imagine — but they loved their words.
Anjali House itself is a very special place for me. It is my home when I am here in Cambodia. It is the place where I really discovered my voice as a teacher, and discovered an important purpose in my life. In some ways, I’m not all that different from the kids that I’m teaching.
As I write this, our latest Facilitator, Sophia, is off running workshops to students throughout northwest Cambodia supported by Children of the Mekong. Next week I start a series of “taster” workshops for the students of Caring for Cambodia who have been chosen to participate in a special program addressing Gender Equity. And then, all will be revealed…..
But I’ll leave you now with a beautiful poem by Anjali House’s own “pastoral poet” (who wants to be an accountant…go figure). This one brings tears to my eyes every time I read it:
GIVE ME THE BREATH
by Vireak (age 19)
The cloud is like you. I am like the winds.
I blow you up, you eclipse the sun.
You cover the sun to protect the earth. I feel like
the earth that stays under you. You give me
warmth from the sun. You give breath
so I can live. You make me bright
because you carry me. You are my life.
You make me happy.