It was with joy and excitement that The Handa Academy (T.H.A.) here in Battambang, Cambodia was able to open again on Monday the January 18. School had been closed for the last 10 months due to Covid-19. The Cambodian government set in place “Three Phases” for opening schools depending on how well the phase before did. Because T.H.A. is a private NGO school we could open in the third phase. Originally the new school year should have started in November but because of a community outbreak it was postponed yet again until January of this year. It’s been a long wait!
From January 11 – 15 the T.H.A. staff spent time cleaning and preparing the classrooms, the hall, and the grounds. Alongside my work at the T.H.A. as the crafts teacher and helping with the English classes, I also coordinate the Learning Centre. I have 16 years experience in teaching Early Childhood and had some free time so I volunteered to take on a coordinators role to develop this program. It was started sometime in July 2019 by a visiting American team. I had lots of ideas and researched a lot more. I was told it would be for ‘Educational games and books’.
During our week of cleaning and preparation I spent time preparing the Learning Centre. I wanted it to be just right for when our students came back. I’d already purchased the furniture and the resources that we needed and had been storing them in my spare bedroom. I had shelves, boxes of activities, a basket of soft toys, mats, cushions and encouraging posters that I’d made and prepared while school had been shut. We’ve also had all sorts of books and activities donated to us from New Zealand and I’ve also been able to bring resources from various Expats leaving the country which has been a huge blessing. Previous NZCMS Mission Partner, Anne McCormick has been especially instrumental, donating her educational games, puzzles and the Khmer books from the activities program she ran at the hospital she worked at. It is a delight to see the students spending time in the Learning Centre, playing and exploring with the activities and learning as they go. It’s great to see their creativity coming out while using the open ended play resources, such as the blocks and construction straws. I’m spending some time with the teachers to help them understand the benefits and purposes of the Learning Centre so that it will continue in the years ahead.