My time at Hope by Kyle Wintworth | Hope Agency

My time at Hope by Kyle Wintworth

To be in a foreign land, amongst foreign faces scared me. How was it possible, I thought, to feel at “home” as well as gain enough confidence to teach a class of +20 when I was feeling lost…and alone?

Little did I know, all of that changed in what felt like a blink of an eye.

I had no idea what to expect… but with spontaneity comes adventure.

Within two days of my arrival I was surrounded by faces I now call friends in a land I can now call my second home.

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A land that was once bare to me personally…is now a place flooded with memory and love and laughter and community.

I spent exactly one month in a ‘middle of nowhere’ kinda village. The most rural village I have ever seen. This village, named “Bakod”, down south in Takeo Province, Cambodia consisted of dirt roads and rice fields. There were more chickens running around than homesteads. In the midst of this little village, there was one source of light, one source of hope-“Hope School”.

At Hope School, there were the students. Young and ambitious students…traveling by bike or their little bare feet through the monsoon rains just so they can learn English, being taught by our fellow volunteers. You could see the appreciation within their eyes.

No matter who you are, you are respected by each and every student. I arrived to teach them, not knowing that I would leave there all the wiser. They taught me persistence, resilience and how to be humble.

Volunteering abroad was not new to me. I had previously travelled to Nepal, India and Vietnam, however, there was something different about this little school of hope in Cambodia. This point of difference was the atmosphere of drive and determination. The leaders there had a work ethic, which created a rhythm of consistent impact. I was inspired to teach on the daily. I was also inspired to teach because I knew that the students were inspired to learn. Students arriving every day in the same clothing they had worn the previous day, which spanned across the entire month of my stay. This was a constant reminder as to of why I was there.

The students at Hope School were filled with gratitude. I remember leaving each and every class with a bag full of drawings, handmade jewellery and notes saying, “I love you teacher” and “thank you.” After class, both they and I would leave smiling and all the richer.

After class, around lunchtime, the volunteers and I would make our way to the little shop/café just outside the gates of Hope School. We treated ourselves too big bowls of noodles and the owner’s famous Cambodian iced-coffee, made from sweetened condensed milk! Once our bellies were filled, we would lie in hammocks under the cool shade or take a nap away from the scorching sun. As the sun set, we would commune together around the long dinner tables and feast again to traditional Cambodian foods such as delicious curry, veggies, stir-fries and rice.

As the night continued, we would all play cards, games and really just ‘live in the moment’ as we were not held back by our phones or other technological devices. I truly believe that Hope was a place of connection, a place of acceptance and a place of generosity that allowed me to grow immensely.

I saw, for the first time how humility and gratitude stem greatly from having the bare minimum. There I was, having everything I needed. A toothbrush, a bag full of clothes and money for food, yet these children willingly came to Hope School, just to LEARN! They believe that something good was coming out of it. They know that this school is creating a future for themselves and their families.

The one way to truly experience the true essence of a country is by involving yourself in volunteer work. In doing this you interact with the people of the country on a deeper level. A level of intimacy.

You see ways in which the locals work, play, live, shop, talk and just be. Knowing the people of a country and how

they truly operate helps you understand the country on a deeper and more personal level. Hope School opened these doors for me, on a level I never Expected.

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