Half an hour out from town, I set off on my motorbike heading towards the rural outskirts of Battambang. The ride was stunning. The road stretches so far, displaying a variety of different settings. One minute, you are cruising along a stretch at 60km/p and you are surrounded by thick vegetation on either side of the road. The roof of the trees meet above the road, making way for beautiful shaded areas that relieve you from the burning sun. Once you pass these stretches, you turn to hear the angry rumble of a truck, as it picks up speed after spotting an open road. That’s when you give it some gas, and you soak in the breathtaking open roads and grasslands – vast and dry. This feels like the epitome of a farming town in Cambodia, with huge steel rice mills and random gas stations that sit besides extravagant Cambodian style mansions.
My first attempt at getting out to the school was a failure. The data on my phone began to cut out as soon as I hit the outskirts of town. That’s when I knew we were going pretty rural by this stage. I ended up taking a detour back into town, had some lunch and coffee at a nice cafe in the heart of town before setting back on the bike to head back out to the village. I am already loving this town for what it offers. It is said that the town of Battambang is at the forefront of the modern day art scene in Cambodia. You can see how that may be the case. There is an abundance of French influenced cafes and restaurants where you find paintings on the wall, sometimes with a price tag on them. You never fail to spot that token white person sitting at a table, immersed in whatever it is they are doing from their laptops.
After a half an hour trip down this big countryside road, I found the school. I was the only foreigner in site, so you can just imagine the attention I was attracting. I entered the school where I was warmly welcomed by some of the students who were either hanging around their classrooms, or outside. This experience took me straight back to that month I spent in a Thai village a couple of years ago.
I had an interesting discussion with one of the founders of the HDLF school earlier this morning. HDLF stands for the ‘Human-Resource Development & Language Foundation’. After this discussion, the name of the organisation began to make more sense to me. This organisation encourages young Cambodian adults who aspire to be teachers and educators to volunteer with their organisation and in exchange for their time and efforts, the organisation funds their university degree so that they can obtain qualification in the field of education. When I heard this, I felt so good about the fact that I was going to be working with such an organisation. I am really passionate about empowering the people, treating them as embodied agents of change. Donating money to a community or a cause is great, however that’s just one aspect of philanthropy. Solutions and processes that ensure long term sustainability; these are the aspects of philanthropy that I value highly.
We have discussed what my arrangements will be and I will be based in a different spot to where the school is. My place will be at the headquarters, about 20 minutes away from the school. That is where I will do most of my work. The type of work I will be doing is on the business development side of things. This fits well with my current skills and it is going to teach me so much about how social enterprises work.
Okay, I’m pretty damn excited right now.