On our first day at the school earlier last week, we dismounted our bikes before passing through the gates of The Global Child, following closely behind Soben: teacher and social worker at TGC, and our unofficial Siem Reap tour guide.
I’ve had lots of experience working with kids. In all different settings. And I’ve heard so many stories about TGC over the years from friends who studied abroad, and from past Minerva Fellows. So I had expectations- I thought I knew what I was walking into. But the moment I walked through those gates everything I thought I knew immediately dissolved. TGC is so much more than a school, or a non-profit, or even a safe house. TGC is family, it’s community, and it’s opportunity. I felt it from that very first moment.
We parked our bikes on the side of the building and continued on with our tour. This next part resembles a scene from a musical: kids of all ages peeping their heads out of every window, giggling, waving, smiling- ready to welcome the year’s new crop of volunteers. What an amazing feeling to be so immediately welcomed in such a foreign place.
I am proud to say that in less than a week I have learned all 39 of the students’ names! (Not without flashcards and perhaps some issues with pronunciation, that is). The students have had hard lives- most of them come from extremely poor villages, most of them have difficult family lives, but they come to school every day ready to learn and always eager to improve. These kids are resilient and they truly understand the value of an education. TGC’s school day runs Monday-Saturday from 8-5, and breakfast is served at 6:40 AM, but they don’t complain, and they never tire: what a valuable lesson they are teaching us.
Each year, the kids study more than 12 subjects, play multiple sports and instruments, and are engaged in countless extra-curricular activities. And they do it all well. And all the while, they are unbelievably kind and respectful to one another. If you give a kid a backpack, a uniform, and a bike, you’ve evened their playing field. TGC evens the playing field for 39 remarkable children.