Global Service Scholar: Nicolas Gutierrez III
Country: Cambodia

A typical day in Cambodia begins with a cold, refreshing shower, which allows for a short escape from the country’s constant heat. Before heading out the door for breakfast, I always make sure to apply an abundant amount of insect repellent because the mosquitoes in Siem Reap may be small, but they pack a punch.

Since the first breakfast in Cambodia, I have ordered fried eggs with bread and a mango shake, and it has failed to disappoint. Running on a tight morning schedule, I end up finishing my bread on the tuk-tuk, or Cambodian motorbike taxis, that we ride on to Treak Community Centre. Each morning ride is sure to wake you up, since they are all adventures filled with near collisions, pothole-ridden roads, and bustling street markets.

Upon arriving at Treak Community Centre, we are greeted by the delightful staff and students of the center. During the first half of our day, we have two typical tasks we can choose to complete. The first is to make eco-friendly bricks made from sand, concrete, and otherwise unrecyclable plastic waste. The team splits into smaller groups that are in charge of either mixing the cement or filling the brick molds. The eco-bricks, which completely dry within 24 hours, are used to make much-needed toilets for local Treak village families.

The second task is to help develop and improve Treak’s curriculum and testing. Personally, I am part of the testing group that is responsible for creating the center’s testing criteria and developing tests that would be simple enough for the English learners, yet challenging enough to appropriately evaluate the students’ knowledge. The Treak Community Centre places students based on their ability to speak, write, and read English, rather than by age. The testing is used to decide which level a student is placed into and whether they get to move onto the next level.

During our lunch break, I venture out to the Treak village and always end up buying Khmer street food and a sugar cane drink at a nearby market. On a good day, I manage to walk back to the center with enough time to rest before continuing the day with the students.

During the second half of the day, I work in the classroom with the students at the second highest level. Jake and I assist teacher Chhlat in teaching the students how to pronounce new English words, as well as how to do activities that ensure the students understand the meaning of each new word. For every new word the students learn in English, the students teach us the word in Khmer. Teacher Chhlat ensures every single one of his students gets comfortable enough with the words to use it in a sentence. This is my favorite part of the day because the students and the volunteers are learning just as much as we are teaching each other.

After a long day of volunteering at Treak Community Centre, I arrive back at the guesthouse and rest before I, along with some of the other Global Service Scholars, go out for a local Khmer dinner. Before returning to the guesthouse for the night, we enjoy the rich Cambodian culture at local night markets.