23 December 2010

Angels at Anjali

My first week back at Anjali House is nearly at an end, and it's been an absolute delight to see all the children again. There are a few new faces but most are the same children I worked with and got to know last Christmas.

Most are taller, though a couple seem almost to have shrunk -- one 10-year-old boy, who's been sick recently, looks more like he's 5 or 6 and he's certainly not the cheeky little rascal he was a year ago. Most are more mature, though there are a few whose maltreatment and misfortune have obviously scarred them and left them mentally damaged. Most have improved their English skills, though not as much as you might expect for the amount of time that has elapsed. Most seem happy, though even the brightest have sad moments and need a comforting hug. Most seem healthy, though there are also a few chesty coughs and colourful runny noses. Most seem well-treated, though I did notice some rather alarming bruises across one little girl's back as she was changing into her school uniform today.

Such is the lot of the poor children of Cambodia. I wish I could do more to help them but it would take much more than one woman and four weeks to make any significant difference.

The good news is that I can help them improve their English a little, just by talking to them and spending a little one-to-one time with each of them. This week we've been revising present tenses and prepositions (and even my Upper Intermediate students at home struggle with those at times!) and practising forming questions. And today was their BIG end-of-year test, to see which students can move up to the next level. They were all nervous about it and most had problems understanding the test instructions, let alone answering the questions.

But Anjali isn't just about learning English. We teach General Studies lessons as well, so have revised last week's lessons on natural disasters, worked on their reading skills using the fable about the tortoise and the hare, and tried to expand their knowledge of Cambodian geography -- not easy with kids who think the moon is closer than Phnom Penh because they can see the moon but they can't see their capital city!

We've also sung Christmas songs, played some crazy games, made some very colourful friendship bracelets, and made Christmas decorations, which left more glitter stuck to the lunch tables, the kids and us teachers than to the coloured card they were using. Maybe the best thing I can do for these kids is to help them have fun, and it's certainly a delight to hear their giggles and to see their beaming smiles.

More fun tomorrow evening as we're having a Christmas party ... I'll tell about that next time.