The third Empower Action workshop and the first to step foot outside of the classroom.

This month a group of 20 educators from all corners of the globe came together in Siem Reap for the third Empower Action Workshop run by our very own Graham Harper, alongside Andy Dorn from NIST International School. This was the first time the sustainable development and service learning workshop has been taken directly into the community and it was a resounding success. 

Marketing team member, Jade House, joined the team for the weekend. Here’s a little taster of how it went:

An introduction to service learning and how it can impact development

Once we arrived in the Knapor Commune, 40 minutes drive from bustling Siem Reap, we immediately gathered together to discuss the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and to understand why and how these can be aligned with service learning through needs analysis. Rather than reinventing the wheel the Empower Action team are using these goals as the basis of their own development research and action and they provide a fantastic structure for students.

After our introduction we broke off into teams to explore the village further and to take time to chat to the local residents- as long as they weren’t too busy of course! We’d been given a specific area to focus on based on the SDG’s- either Planet, People, Peace or Prosperity- and we had the basics of needs analysis in the forefront of our minds. We were also armed with plenty of ideas for how to communicate what we might find out. These included creating maps, inventories and daily schedules; the more creative the better!

We set off with a guide and quickly came to understand a little about the lives of the Knapor community. We discussed a lot in a short time, including the pitfalls of getting sick in a rural village, the negative impact of foreign-owned industry in the area and the natural resources that helped each family to survive and thrive.

This hands on approach is what made the whole weekend so successful and is what will make the experience for students so memorable. Real interactions with real people with real successes and issues. 

This is the way that we should be working with communities for service learning, whether at home or abroad. Needs analysis, communication and research are fundamental to making a positive impact that lasts well after you have finished your projects. ETA can teach you the skills you need to do this with your own school and your own community. Get in touch today to find out how we can work together for  a more sustainable future.

The Extra Stuff

Now, you can’t bring 20 teachers together in Siem Reap at the weekend and expect them to sit in workshops all day.

Wandering through the village by foot was a highlight in itself but when we headed out into the fields for an ox-cart ride things got really exciting. Buffalo Tours have been running these ox-cart rides in Knapor Commune for over a year as a form of community based tourism and, despite being a rather uncomfortable ride, its been incredibly popular!

Our ride was especially memorable as we were taken further out into the agricultural land to visit a crumbling Angkor-era temple. This area is full of surprises!

Once we were back to the bus it was time for a final treat before heading back for a home-cooked meal and a well deserved early night. We strolled through the rice fields for a short 10 minutes to reach this beautiful little lake for a sundowner.

The next day, to conclude our village experience, a monk came by to give us all a blessing in the very pavilion where a hundred ideas and questions had been shared the day before.

Back in Siem Reap we visited not one but four social enterprises in the heart of the city. You can read all about it here