When one goes to see the great black grandfather -Takhmao means “the great black grandfather” in Cambodian- after having visited all the other camps of the School Continuity Program, he could expect to have already exhausted his capacity for surprise. But it’s not like that. After five weeks here, in Cambodia, it is still possible to be surprised, falling in love, once again, with a camp. Takhmao is located in one of the most beautiful PSE centers of the whole program, but the most surprising is that two days before completing the School Continuity Program, after five absolutely stressful weeks, the energy of the monitors, instead of decreasing, continues growing. In the last minute of the program, the very soul of each person who has participated in the program is there, with each child.
THE GREAT BLACK GRANDFATHER
The Takhmao camp is located at the Community Services Center in Preak ho, a neighborhood in the province of Phnom Penh, forty-five minutes by car from the PSE Center —a road under construction, which has evicted many families from their homes, leads there—. Takhmao Community Services Center is a project that has been jointly led by PSE and the NGO Small Step Project for the last two years, and whose ultimate goal is to help the population of Preak Ho: Takhmao’s children, like other camps, work for waste to be recycled, for a large part of their time.
“I would choose the first day: it’s shocking to get here for the first time and feel the embrace of the children waiting for you. They do not know you at all, but they’re waiting for you. “
TAKHMAO: A GIFT
Takhmao’s CSC is a gift: a gift for sight, because it is a bright, spacious, green and full of joy, with an area of sand and swings covered with a large green awning, a huge covered patio to do all kinds of activities, a small orchard where mangos grow and a building, full of garlands of flowers hanging everywhere, divided with the help of shelves in two small spaces; even the fence that surrounds Takhmao exudes joy: this year, children have decorated a whole front as if it were an ocean.
But also, it is a gift for the heart, because in Takhmao life goes by alone and easy, as if the rules did not exist, as if everything could only be this way: fun, vital, beautiful, relaxed. In Takhmao there seems to be no schedule or rush, but inexplicably, everything happens when it has to happen. Anyone there would fix the gaze on the children’s laughter and the monitors who dance happily on the porch and suddenly, when one wants to realize, showers have already happened. And also the breakfasts. And…all.
Yes: something inexplicable happens here. “The first two weeks are hard, you feel a little lost, you do not get enough,” says Pati, a monitor “but suddenly one day, the subprogram seems to work alone and everything becomes joyful and the relationship with the children becomes increasingly beautiful. ”
“I do not want French monitors, nor Spanish monitors, nor monitors Cambodian, I want, monitors, only monitors, without templates.”
“Even so, I would choose the first day,” says Pati, “it’s shocking to get here for the first time and feel the embrace of the children waiting for you. They do not know you at all, but they’re waiting for you. ”
Takhmao is a place where children laugh happily, unconcerned. Even Rien Sabin, a boy with a marked motor dysfunction in his legs that does not prevent him from playing the games of all. O Chea Pea, who has malformations all over his body, but dances like if he was the Cambodian version of Fred Astaire.
The morning, here, begins that way. Flowing, full of laughter. When the van arrives with the monitors – seven Cambodians and seven Europeans who have not stopped singing for a minute during the forty-five minutes journey, and it is six o’clock in the morning – there are already children inside the center who come running to meet them.
The others will arrive a little later: the van in which the monitors have come must collect them. There are only six miles away between the children’s homes and the PSE center, but the road is so bad that it takes an hour and a half to get them and return.
When they arrive, there will be close to eighty and one hundred children in the center. Then, at noon, some will leave —near to fifty remain all day— and the second shift will arrive; In total, during the afternoon there will be between one hundred and sixty-two hundred and thirty children. In almost all centers it is like this: in the morning shift usually come the smallest and during the afternoon shift come many more children who are also older, they are children who go to school in the morning.
“Time passes too quickly, I would sign for staying here for two more weeks.”
Today is a special day in Takhmao because the Cambodian and European monitors have changed their roles: today, the Cambodian monitors organize the activities and the Europeans coordinate the groups of children to go through the activities. “Some Cambodian games are fun,” says a European monitor. “Managing children to move from one activity to another is not easy,” says another. There is nothing like putting yourself in the skin of another to appreciate their work.
THE APOLLINE’s CHALLENGE
“My main goal this year was to form a united team,” says Apolline, one of the French coordinators of the program, together with Constance, from Prek Toal. “The first time I came to Cambodia, all my attention was on the children and it was a so tremendous experience that what I wanted now, on my return, that the people who came with me feel the same, I wanted to share with them this unique experience.
Therefore, I do not want French monitors, or Spanish monitors, or Cambodian monitors” continuous Apolline “I want, monitors, just monitors, without templates. I do not want teams, I want a team, a single team so united that it works as one person: that’s my challenge this year.”
The School Continuity Program is like a great concert full of beauty from the first note and yet it is still able to grow and give away its best melody at the end, a melody with a message that sounds high, higher than ever, beautiful, tremendously beautiful, and resounding: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.
Scoring goals is the first step in life to get somewhere, it is not possible to walk if it is not to run into some dream, but sometimes, meeting them is complicated. And joining French, Spaniards and Cambodians is complicated. It is complicated because there are language barriers and cultural differences that are difficult to skip and require everyone’s commitment to skip them. One day before the program ends, when almost everything is fulfilled, it is difficult to guess what Apolline has done to achieve its goal, but there is no doubt that it has been fulfilled: to know that they are one team, it would be enough to go today in the van, where all the monitors were singing.
It would enough to see them during the games to understand that there are no barriers between them. Here, in Takhmao, there is only one team, big, strong.
THE BOLERO OF RAVEL
And not only that: here today the joy reaches maximum levels and it is totally contagious. Every day that passes energy, far from exhausted, grows! It is difficult to understand where the joy comes from, where to find so much strength after almost five weeks of being here in the interior of each monitor, giving each one the best of himself. “Time passes too quickly,” laments one monitor “I would sign for two more weeks here.” Two more weeks!
Throughout the School Continuity Program, one has the feeling of having been attending a great concert full of beauty since the first note and that, even so, it is still able to grow and give away his best melody in the end, a melody with a message that sounds high, higher than ever, beautiful, tremendously beautiful, and resounding: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.